They say the best things come in small packages…what about cities?
Liverpool outlines its new ‘tall buildings’ policy — plus the rest of your briefing
Dear readers — today’s big story is about height. A new council document is placing restrictions on the building of skyscrapers in Liverpool in order to protect the charm of its waterfront. To some this is a necessary step to prevent the ruination of our heritage. To others, it smacks of a grand lack of ambition. So is Liverpool a growth spurt away from aesthetic disaster? Or could we use a pair of platform shoes? Read on.
Elsewhere in today’s edition, we’ll be looking at:
An update from metro mayor Steve Rotheram about the hyper-futuristic possibility of a Liverpool tram network
Period features and brightly-painted walls at a beautiful property in Stoneycroft
An ode to Terence Davies, one of Liverpool’s most talented sons, in The Guardian
At the weekend it was Blease on Bleasdale, as we published Melissa Blease’s beautiful reflection on the Royal Court’s remake of Alan Bleasedale’s iconic Boys from the Blackstuff. The play has been a big hit for the theatre, with glowing reviews in the broadsheets, but the piece questions whether it makes sense to explore today’s issues via a play so firmly rooted in its time. After all, “Blackstuff was never meant to be a period piece — it was a punch to the gut, a wake up call.”
The piece created a fantastic debate in the comments, and seemingly struck at the heart of an interesting issue surrounding Liverpool’s sense of itself. Do revamps of 80s classics like Blackstuff create a new lens through which to explore today’s issues? Or do they suggest that we’re stuck in the shadow of a decade that ended 33 years ago? Here was one comment:
Thanks Melissa — a thoughtful reflection. I’ve loved Bleasdale’s work and loved his spirit and his love of the people of our city. I agree, though, that his work is rooted in its time. I still treasure the anarchic GBH and the wonderfully funny — and menacing — No Surrender, but it would be hard to repeat them without a lengthy ‘this is how they lived then’ introduction.
Editor’s note: Today’s newsletter goes out to 18,612 Post readers, of which 1285 are signed up members. If you find yourself in the former group, but not the latter, fear not, there’s still time to correct the error of your ways! Our paying members are the entire reason we exist and are able to keep publishing these newsletters. Our mission is to provide a clickbait-free model for news that holds local institutions to account, produces deeply-researched investigations, and creates space for beautiful feature writing. It would be great to get to 1300 members by the end of the week, so do consider signing up below.
From today’s sponsor: Fancy doing some truly sustainable shopping that also supports some of the best independent makers and designers at the same time? Now in its 16th year, The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair is back at Victoria Baths over in Manchester this week (Thursday 19 to Sunday 22 October) and will feature beautiful handmade pieces from the most talented ceramicists, jewellers, textile and glass artists, printmakers, sculptors, blacksmiths and silversmiths in the land, not to mention furniture and lighting designers. As well as browsing the craft on sale and meeting the makers, there are exhibitions, craft demos and free drop-in workshops. Post readers can get two tickets for the price of one by following this special link.
This week’s weather
Tuesday 🌥️ Sunny intervals and a moderate breeze with highs of 13°C
Wednesday 🌧️ Light rain and a fresh breeze with highs of 13°C
Thursday 🌧️ Light rain and a moderate breeze with highs of 15°C
Friday 🌧️ Light rain and a moderate breeze with highs of 15°C
Weekend 🌧️ Heavy rain and a moderate breeze with highs of 13°C
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from BBC Weather and it’s for Liverpool.
The big story: They say the best things come in small packages…but what about cities?
Top line: Liverpool is adopting a new policy to protect its skyline — by placing restrictions on the development of future tall buildings. Are plans like these needed to prevent developers trampling on our city’s heritage? Or are they anathema to the ambitions of a confident modern city?
Context: The height of Liverpool’s buildings has been a major point of debate for some years, flaring up most notably after the city was stripped of UNESCO status in 2021 after the UN body blamed developments for causing an “irreversible loss” to the city’s Victorian docks. Some believe that over-development is threatening the iconic beauty of the city’s skyline — most significantly around the Three Graces and Albert Dock. Others look wistfully at the endless upward ambition of Manchester and fear Liverpool is being left behind. Some 27 skyscrapers have been built in Manchester in just five years, with 21 more under construction. Another 51 on top of that have been granted planning permission.
The question of potential over-development looms large along the M62, of course. A recent Manchester Evening News article on the skyscraper boom quoted Eamonn Canniffe, a lecturer at the Manchester School of Architecture, who bemoaned the tall buildings “which loom over the middle of the city like a gang of encircling bullies.” Meanwhile heritage group SAVE Britain’s Heritage produced a 60-page report warning that things were moving too fast and describing the notion that height is synonymous with success as “outdated”. It reads:
This lack of oversight for how tall buildings and demolitions are managed or understood cumulatively across the city poses a major threat to one of the key ingredients of Manchester's successes
But that’s Manchester. What does this policy intend to achieve for Liverpool? Essentially, this is a new document (called the Tall Buildings Supplementary Planning Document) that lays out the four criteria all new tall buildings must comply with. They are:
A clear purpose and role for the tall building to directly support regeneration
The proposed height is appropriate to the role or function of the locality
It positively contributes to an area and its scale is appropriate to its surroundings
The impacts on sensitivities have been fully considered
As Nick Small, Liverpool City Council’s cabinet member for economy and development, says:
We need to ensure its historic character and charm are maintained, whilst allowing for economic growth and job creation.
Some believe this represents a down-scaling of ambition, and point to a recurring theme in Liverpool of projects being dramatically scaled back as they move through planning. An article announcing the decision on the property publication Place North West drew a ton of angry responses. “50 floor cap? Bit small isn’t it? Manchester is leaps and bounds ahead with their 60+ floors in terms of modernisation and investment.” And another:
50-storey limit? So if Canary Wharf group wanted to invest £2 billion into a new development with towers up to 80 storeys on derelict land in Liverpool, LCC would decline it? crazy. A big city should think and behave like a big city.
It’s worth pointing out that a building with even 50 storeys would immediately become the biggest in the city by some margin. The current tallest is West Tower, which has 40, and is the tallest building in the country outside of London and Manchester (that is, if you include Salford as an extension of Manchester, which perhaps wouldn’t please Salfordians very much).
Five zones have been earmarked by the report as potential zones for skyscraper clusters:
Leeds Street/Pall Mall
Southern fringe of Baltic Triangle
Bottom line: While some are clearly disappointed at the storey limit imposed by the policy, the fact that Liverpool’s current tallest building would be dwarfed should a 50-storey sibling shoot up suggests that the issue in terms of Liverpool’s ‘ambition’ is less to do with documents and more to do with following through on plans. Whether a Manchester-style skyscraper boom is even a good thing at all is a debate the two opposing sides will likely never see eye-to-eye on either. Perhaps the best things do come in small packages. Perhaps that’s just what people tell themselves.
Your Post briefing
Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has said a tram network across Liverpool could be a possibility if a Labour government was formed at the next General Election. Speaking during a visit to the City of Liverpool College last week, Rotheram told the Echo that it would be "wonderful" if a tram system could be introduced, but insisted his focus remained on expanding Merseyrail and the bus network to areas with "really, really poor transport links” to the rest of the city. "If we could get something going that'd be brilliant,” he said. “But there are no proposals at this moment in time for trams in the Liverpool City region.”
Liverpool FC said they “won’t be in a position” to provide seats to fans who purchased tickets for the upper tier of its Anfield Road stand, after it was announced that construction will now not be completed until next year. The news comes after construction works were delayed last month when contractors Buckingham Group went into administration. Liverpool FC has since changed their contractors to Rayner Rowen Construction, however the club’s CEO Billy Hogan said it was "not possible at this point to put a new timeline in place" for the stand’s full completion. The club said they are “disappointed” and “really sorry” for those impacted by the delays, and said they will be reaching out to those affected this week. We recently wrote about the collapse of Buckingham Group and the delays to the new Anfield Road stand — read that piece here.
The man who poured glitter over Keir Starmer’s head during the Labour Conference in Liverpool last week has been released on bail. The 28-year-old from Surrey, Yaz Ashmawi, was arrested on suspicion of assault, breach of the peace, and causing a public nuisance after jumping onto the stage during Starmer’s speech, shouting "true democracy is citizen-led" and throwing glitter at him. He was wearing a shirt linking him to People Demand Democracy — a protest group calling for a complete upheaval of the UK’s political systems.
The Tate Liverpool has now closed ahead of a two-year, £29.7 million transformation that will create a new public Art Hall, double-height galleries, and more social space. During the closure, the Tate will remain partially open to run a programme of exhibitions, learning projects and talks, with the cafe and shop also accessible. The contents of the gallery, which opened at the Royal Albert Dock in 1988, will be temporarily housed in the RIBA building on Mann Island, with over 70,000 works going into storage.
Home of the week
This two bedroom terraced home in Stoneycroft is on the market for £210,000. The house exudes character, with period features and traditional brickwork blended with modern and bright decor. Find out more here.
🎤 Head to FACT Liverpool on Wednesday for a viewing of Ó'Bhéal — a wonderful black and white film exploring the world of Irish-language rappers. The film screening is part of Liverpool Irish Festival this week, and will be introduced by Mick Hannigan (IndieCork Film Festival) in celebration of 50-years of hip-hop. Find out more here.
📺 Helen McCarthy — who wrote the first books in English on anime and on Japanese film company Studio Ghibli’s co-founding director Hayao Miyazaki — is hosting an art history talk on Wednesday at the Camp and Furnace, exploring the works of the film company. The event starts at 6.45pm — buy a ticket here.
🎸 Liverpool rock band Stone return to their old stomping ground on Thursday for an intimate show at The Jacaranda. The show is to celebrate the launch of their new EP, PUNKADONK 2. Find out more here.
📖 Head to the Open Eye Gallery on Thursday for the launch of Crow Dark Dawn, a new book by wyrd-folk writer David Greygoose. The evening features a reading from the book by the author, as well as extracts from his two previous publications Brunt Boggart and Mandrake Petals and Scattered Feathers. Find out more here.
Our favourite reads
“Half an hour into our meeting and it's much worse than I expected,” wrote Frank Cottrell-Boyce of his meeting with legendary Liverpool film-maker Terence Davies. “Davies is asphyxiating with laughter as he struggles to recite his favourite Les Dawson-Roy Barraclough routine.” After Davies’ passing aged 77 just over a week ago, this 2008 Guardian interview, written to celebrate Of Time and the City, his documentary-style paean to the Liverpool of this youth, is a joy to revisit. Davies made that Liverpool ache with a strange kind of beauty on the screen, but he was far from misty-eyed. “It's changed so much I feel like an alien," he says of Liverpool now. “Changed for the better? ‘Well, it couldn't have been worse.’” Alas, we’ll never know now what Davies would have made of the city’s Tall Buildings Supplementary Planning Document.
And a word from the Washington Post about last week's proceedings at the M&S Bank Arena. A glittery (literally, if not metaphorically) Sir Keir Starmer delivered a “prosaic” but “well-crafted” speech at Labour’s 2023 conference that was enough to maintain his party’s gaping lead over the kamikaze government and maintain its path to power next year. “This week in Liverpool, the conversation around the corporate-sponsored dining tables had already moved on,” Martin Ivens writes. “Can a Starmer government fulfil the dreams of his party’s members in straitened economic times, the sceptics now ask.”
Letters from readers
Very well written piece. I’ve avoided going to see it tbh as it evokes raw memories of awful times. As you rightly point out there are different but equally grim happenings now. Zero hours contracts, virtually no rights for people employed for years in the same role, ‘The Royal Court’s 'Boys from the Blackstuff' is a hit. But it was never meant to be a period piece’, Mike
Thanks Melissa — a thoughtful reflection. I’ve loved Bleasdale’s work and loved his spirit and his love of the people of our city. I agree, though, that his work is rooted in its time. I still treasure the anarchic GBH and the wonderfully funny — and menacing — No Surrender, but it would be hard to repeat them without a lengthy ‘this is how they lived then’ introduction, ‘The Royal Court’s 'Boys from the Blackstuff' is a hit. But it was never meant to be a period piece’, Mick Kelly