ALL CHANGE ON THE WATERFRONT; Ahead of a crucial planning meeting, Chief Feature Writer Paddy Shennan looks at the changing face of Liverpool's waterfront.
Byline: Paddy Shennan
A REVOLUTION is taking place along Liverpool's world-famous waterfront, as planners and developers continue to shape the city's future.
Take a walk along our rapidly evolving waterfront today and although it's sometimes difficult to see the bricks for the mortar, you'll come face to face with the good, the bad and the ugly.
It's no longer just about Albert Dock and the Three Graces, because there are new buildings springing up everywhere - but how many of them will grace the waterfront and how many disgrace it?
I drove north from Brunswick Dock The Brunswick Dock is a dock, on the River Mersey and part of the Port of Liverpool.
(see also the former Brunswick Dock in London which became part of the East India Docks) to the Princes Dock The Princes Dock is a dock on the River Mersey and part of the Port of Liverpool. It is situated in the northern end of the dock system, connected to Princes Half Tide Dock to the north. It was built by John Foster construction starting in 1810. with urban design expert Tony Siebenthaler, who founded the independent urban strategy think tank Downtown Liverpool, was a former project director of Liverpool Architecture and Design Trust and is chairman of the Urban Design and Futures Committee of the Merseyside Civic Society.
We started our tour at Brunswick Quay, the proposed site for a 51-storey apartment complex which would rocket more than 500ft, making it the tallest tower block in the city.
But planning officers are recommending that the scheme be rejected at tomorrow night's meeting of the city council planning committee planning committee n (in local government) → comité m de planificación .
Meanwhile, plans for a second high rise tower - a 40-storey block of flats and offices development by the Beetham Organisation in Brook Street Brook Street is one of the principal streets on the Grosvenor Estate in the exclusive central London district of Mayfair. It was developed in the first half of the 18th century and runs from Hanover Square to Grosvenor Square. , opposite the Liverpool ECHO The Liverpool Echo is a newspaper published by Trinity Mirror on Merseyside in England. It is published Monday to Saturday, and is Liverpool's evening newspaper while its sister paper, the Liverpool Daily Post, is the morning paper. - are recommended for approval at the same meeting.
Tony Siebenthaler says: ``I think Beetham's West Tower would be a splendid addition to the city, but I think it's absurd that while this building is, quite rightly, considered appropriate by planning officers, the Brunswick Quay scheme isn't. ''
And if the Brunswick Quay plan IS refused by councillors?
``It would be a hideous decision. The design is stunning and the building would grace any city in the world. If you offered it to New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of or Hong Kong Hong Kong (hŏng kŏng), Mandarin Xianggang, special administrative region of China, formerly a British crown colony (2005 est. pop. 6,899,000), land area 422 sq mi (1,092 sq km), adjacent to Guangdong prov. they would bite your hands off.
``The building could only add to that area of the south docks, because it is surrounded by unmitigated un·mit·i·gat·ed
1. Not diminished or moderated in intensity or severity; unrelieved: unmitigated suffering.
2. ugliness. ''
Which brings us onto the cream coloured Customs and Excise Customs and Excise n (BRIT) → Aduanas fpl y Arbitrios
Customs and Excise n (Brit) → administration f des douanes
building on Queens Dock, which prompts another ``hideous'' from Tony, who adds: ``Perhaps its ugliness is reflective of its function!
``Some of the buildings in the south could have been nice and elegant, but the council has been obsessed with not building anything higher than the Albert Dock. ''
Heading north, he says of the world famous Albert Dock complex: ``It's very impressive, if by no means pretty. ''
There are no kind words, however, for the distinctive, white Royal Quay apartment block at Kings Dock: ``I'm amazed they got planning permission planning permission
formal permission granted by a local authority for the construction, alteration, or change of use of a building
planning permission n → licencia de obras !''
Of the doomed Cloud, which would have become the Fourth Grace, Tony says: ``It wasn't my favoured design but I thought it was a nice building - even if that wasn't the right site for it.
``The problem is that to create a truly exceptional building of international significance you would need to spend in the region of pounds 700m. ''
But, he says, whether such a building should be dubbed the Fourth Grace is another matter . . .
``I've always hated the term `Three Graces, ' because I think it's pretentious, deluded and fanciful. My hope is that we one day have buildings which are better than those three buildings.
``If you put the Chrysler building Chrysler Building, in midtown Manhattan, New York City, at Lexington Ave. between 42d and 43d St. The ultimate art deco-style skyscraper, it was commissioned by Walter P. Chrysler, designed by William Van Alen, and built in 1926–30. in there, for example, it would blow everything away. The Three Graces are, in many ways, great buildings, but they're not THAT fantastic. ''
Looking ahead to 2008 and beyond, Tony says: ``I want Liverpool to be what it once was an incredibly dynamic and commercially successful city. And I think it can be.
``We should be proud to have buildings which are bigger, better and more visually-striking than those in other cities. Do we really want mildmannered, mediocre buidlings? They may not offend, but they don't inspire, either.
``It shouldn't be a question of limiting tall buildings, but ensuring that they are beautifully-designed. ''
He adds: ``We have got seven spectacular highlights - the Three Graces, the two cathedrals "Two Cathedrals" is the 44th episode, and second season finale of The West Wing. Synopsis
Bartlet is beset by memories of Mrs. Landingham as her funeral approaches. , St George's Hall and Martins Bank in Water Street - but the rest of our buildings are average.
``Glasgow hasn't got our great buildings but it has got mile after mile after mile of Castle Streets. Its infrastructure and landscape is a million times better. ''
Looking along - and up - at the firstBeetham tower, Tony is more impressed by its height than its design. But he says: ``While it has been said that it has nothing to commend it but its impressive height, many other buildings on the waterfront have nothing to commend them at all!''
Although nowhere near as tall as the first Beetham tower block, the new multi-storey car park at Princes Dock - see accompanying article - has also provoked debate, but Tony says: ``I don't think we should get too precious about it; a car park is a car park and this one is obviously needed. ''
Turning again to the waterfront as a whole, Tony says there is a natural inclination among people to be fearful of change any change.
And this, he suggests, can lead to the powers-that-be compromising on the scale and design of new buildings.
He adds: ``People can only build what they are allowed to build and I think we all need to be more adventurous. ''
But how on earth did THIS get planning permission?
BEAUTY is apparently in the eye of the beholder . . . but can a car park ever be considered attractive?
As countless Merseysiders will have noticed - including those who have written to or `phoned the ECHO to complain - a new multi-storey car park is currently being built as part of the ongoing developments at Princes Dock.
Questions which have been asked include ``Has it actually got planning permission?'' and ``Did it have to be sited so close to our world-famous waterfront?''
A city council spokesman confirmed that the car park went through the usual planning procedures, including a public consultation process - albeit in two stages.
He explained: ``It had initial approval in December 2002, but the applicants then came back in January 2004 when they wanted to increase the size. There was only one objection received, and that was from English Heritage, on design issues. '' The council agreed to allow the Princes Dock Development Company to build an extra four half levels after office and residential plans for the dock attracted increased interest.
Three office blocks and the Crowne Plaza hotel have transformed the once derelict dock, while two residential towers - the City Lofts - are currrently under construction, and work is due to start in early March on a Malmaison hotel. The car park is due to be completed in mid-March and Ian Pollitt, chief executive of the Princes Dock Development Company, says: ``At the moment it is sitting on its own, but it will fit together well with the new hotel.
``We could have put up a bog-standard box, but we have spent pounds 7m on what I think is an attractive car park. What will go round it will blend in. We think it will be the best in Liverpool. ''
REVOLUTION OR EVOLTION? Clockwise from top left - the proposed 51-storey complex at Brunswick Quay; Tony Siebenthaler on the waterfront; the Royal Quay apartments at Kings Dock; the under-construction City Lofts; the waterfront - with St. Nicholas Parish Church - in the 1900s and in the 1700s; the 40-storey Beetham Tower 2