Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda


Memorandum by Liverpool City Council (TAB 36)

  The following presents Liverpool City Council's response to the questions being considered by the Urban Affairs Sub-Committee on Tall Buildings as reflected in current planning practice in assessing new tall buildings proposals.

THE ROLE OF TALL BUILDINGS IN ACHIEVING HIGH DENSITIES IN RESIDENTIAL AREAS

  Planning practice in Liverpool recognises fundamentally that the use of tall buildings is seldom obligatory, and that in most cases there is a choice between vertical or horizontal arrangements of accommodation on any site in the city. The optimum density for a given site is not necessarily achieved by the erection of tall buildings, and high densities can be achieved without them. The practice is therefore directed at the correct use of tall blocks as a positive contribution to the visual planning of the city.

THE ROLE OF TALL BUILDINGS IN SATISFYING DEMAND FOR OFFICE SPACE FROM CERTAIN TYPE OF GLOBAL COMPANIES

  Although such demand is regrettably uncommon it is understood and accepted that height nearly always connected with prestige. The Authority will do its best to accommodate such demands through careful siting of tall buildings without compromising visual, environmental or planning principles.

THE ROLE OF TALL BUILDINGS IN ENHANCING THE BEAUTY OF LIVERPOOL

  Liverpool boasts a world renowned waterfront skyline and like many other British cities has inherited a rich legacy of examples of thoughtful use of tall buildings in the creation of landmarks, vista closures and punctuation and animation of the city's skyline. The innovative use of new building technologies is accepted and welcomed however as a natural evolution process providing the potential to embrace attractive contemporary architectural forms and modern landmarks. The City Council is committed to presenting a progressive forward looking image for the City, embracing the new while being proud and protective of its heritage.

SUSTAINABILITY OF TALL BUILDINGS

  Because of their compact form, tall buildings could offer ecological cost benefits through the adoption of more efficient energy saving systems and methods of construction which should be explored to further the drive toward a sustainable built environment. A recent tall building proposal claims as much as two-thirds energy saving on a comparable tower built to "standard specifications".

WHERE SHOULD TALL BUILDINGS BE LOCATED?

  In addressing the nature and significance of tall buildings, the assessment of the appropriateness or otherwise of any location should take account of the following:

    —  Tall buildings lend emphasis to the importance of their sites, which may assume the appearance of key positions in the city.

    —  Height also lends prominence to a building, frequently in excess of its individual importance in relation to its neighbours. Tall buildings therefore tend to force themselves into public view, whether they merit this or not.

    —  Tall buildings in Central Areas will emphasise their commercial and civic status. In local centres they can lend significance to the heart of the neighbourhood or district, and they may be used with advantage to this end.

    —  Tall buildings should not be placed where they detract from or impose on views of important landmark buildings.

    —  Tall buildings must not be allowed to destroy the scale and character of buildings and precincts of valuable architectural quality or historic interest.

    —  Tall Buildings must not be sited in such a way as to destroy the visual coherence of the city, by developing at random without due regard to the city structure.

    —  Indiscriminate use of tall buildings around major parks could destroy the scale and character of the landscape.

    —  Tall building should perform as good neighbour avoiding excessive overshadowing of adjoining development or prejudicing the redevelopment of adjoining sites.

    —  The prominence of a tall building project give the building a special place in the public eye, and therefore should follow certain obligations on the developer who assumes such a privilege. Such a project should receive closer scrutiny of design quality and be considered against the following important siting and design criteria:

      —  The building should compensate for its bulk by freeing sufficient adjoining space for use as an open space at pedestrian level, and preferably some real amenity, both for the general public and for its own users.

      —  The building itself should be of the best possible standard of design, and only first class materials should be used. The detailing should be of a high standard throughout, to ensure longevity against extreme exposure.

      —  Car parking provided with tall buildings may take up much of the site area. Cars should be parked, wherever possible, in basement garages or beneath pedestrian decks out of sight, so that the free portion of sites can be used as open space.

ARE WE LIKELY TO REPEAT THE 1960S MISTAKES?

  Evidence of some of the 1960s mistakes is still with us serving as reminder of the pitfalls and reducing the likelihood of similar mistakes taking place.

ARE THE DECISION-MAKERS SUFFICIENTLY ACCOUNTABLE TO THE PUBLIC?

  The planning system is robust enough requiring sufficient publicity of proposals and formal consultation prior to decisions being made. Greater emphasis should however be given to public participation in the development of detailed masterplans giving more time and wider scope for the participant's involvement.

SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT PREPARE MORE EXPLICIT POLICY GUIDANCE ON TALL BUILDINGS?

  Recent general guidance on tall buildings in government publication and by CABE/EH provides adequate advice to local authorities allowing space for local interpretation. It is difficult to foresee a workable document that responds to the diversity in demand and local characteristics between the capital and other metropolitan areas.


 
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Prepared 22 January 2002