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Liverpool to put people and nature at the heart of placemaking

Liverpool City Council has adopted a Public Realm Strategy which shape the future look and feel of its communities

Liverpool City Council has today given the green light to a “people first” transformation to planning the future of the city’s public spaces and streets.

The council’s cabinet has just approved a new Public Realm Strategy which sets out how the city will deliver on the principle of “20 minute neighbourhoods” in a bid to improve active travel options, such as cycling and walking, and to make the city greener by linking people to nature and landscape through its streets, parks and spaces.

The strategy, which will be enshrined in planning law as a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), also sets out a benchmark to ensure new developments, regeneration and street renewal schemes meet a quality threshold.

The council has also approved the adoption of a trio of strategic regeneration frameworks for key areas of growth in and around the city centre as supplementary planning documents (SPDs) – the Baltic Triangle, The Commercial Business District and Williamson Square/Cavern Quarter.

Together these four planning policy documents underpin the city’s new Local Plan, which was adopted earlier this year, and will set the framework for future development across the city.

The Public Realm strategy sets out a series of three interlinked and interdependent public realm networks to guide and provide meaningful inclusive access to high quality public realm for all of the city’s neighbourhoods:

  1. The Natural Network – a city-wide network of connected green spaces driven by movement, safety and activity.
  2. The Community Network – shaping neighbourhoods around public realm to create a community driven and walkable and cycle friendly city, including a proposal for 20-minute neighbourhoods.
  3. The City Network – a distinctive and green city centre shaped by world-class public realm designed for people rather than vehicles, including reducing the dominance of the car.

The strategy also includes a ‘design ‘toolkit’ for streets, parks and squares. Its purpose is to ensure the delivery of high quality, useable and accessible space within development proposals, that is robust, flexible, adaptable and sustainable.

A ‘live’ schedule of public realm projects across the city is also included in the strategy, which will be published on the council’s website. These projects will guide the spend of available resources including developer contributions.

Four exemplar projects have been identified to illustrate how the strategy’s principles can be applied:

  • Monument Place – to create a square for events
  • Dale Street and St George’s Gateway – to create an iconic pedestrian-led street
  • Town Hall / Castle Street- to create a beautiful and highly active linear square.
  • Baltic Green – to create a highly distinctive and inclusive community space for the Baltic Triangle and surrounding communities.

The Baltic Triangle SPD is one of a trio of area-based SPDs approved today at cabinet, following extensive analysis of the area and a public consultation. As well as being of material consideration for any new planning applications in the area, this SPD also identifies four Areas of Change. It also sets design guidelines for each of these, dealing with considerations such as scale and design, connectivity, heritage and green infrastructure: • Police HQ and Heaps Mill • Wapping Goods Terminal • Flint Street South • Cains Brewery Village and Hill Street Corridor.

The Commercial District SPD has been produced to increase the economic potential of this key part of the city centre, enhancing existing and creating new conditions to attract and retain businesses and appropriate complementary uses. It outlines a vision, illustrative masterplan, a number of potential uses, development principles and guidance to direct future development and investment over the next 15-20 years. The SPD identifies and highlights new development plot opportunities and looks to enhance the connection to other parts of the city through improved public realm and by revitalising underused buildings.

The Cavern Quarter and Williamson Square SPD has been produced to maximise the area’s strengths, specifically with regard to its cultural and built heritage, including its strong association with the Beatles and to address issues facing the area in respect of functionality and identify. The SPD aims to enhance quality of place and visitor experience with a focus around the cultural anchors of The Royal Court and Playhouse Theatres and The Cavern. It also sets out a development framework and design guidance including policies for music, culture, mix of uses, Agent of Change, tourism, built heritage, green infrastructure and connectivity.

All of these polices have also been weighted against the Mayoral triple lock which looks at how they will encourage and promote inclusivity, equality and environment.

Liverpool City Council will also look to adopt a fifth SPD for the city centre – the Upper Central gateway to the city’s Knowledge Quarter – in the new year. And a new Tall Buildings policy is also set to come back to cabinet for adoption after a public consultation was held this summer.

The city council is currently investing £2m in to the planning department, which will include the creation of a new major projects team and a new policy and placemaking team.
The department has also seen a bumper year for planning decision. By the end of November, 3,266 applications had been decided. 2021 and 2020 saw an average of 2,400 application approvals.

Councillor Sarah Doyle, Cabinet Member for Development, said: “The adoption of these planning strategies and documents is a landmark day for Liverpool as they will set out how our neighbourhoods develop over the next 15-20 years.

“The public realm strategy is a really exciting piece of policy as it will measurably make a difference to the quality of life for our residents, as it places a premium on improving connectivity and our relationship with nature. It also encourages a more vibrant and healthier approach to development, which will complement our efforts to tackle climate change at a grassroots neighbourhood level.

“The three SPDs we’ve adopted for The Baltic Triangle, Commercial District and for the Cavern Quarter and Williamson Square represent a huge amount of work in understanding the challenges and opportunities these areas face and present. There’s a huge scope for growth at these places, some of which contain the most iconic buildings and streets of Liverpool.

“By adopting these frameworks were also providing clarity to developers in terms of what standards is expected and what kinds of development will be accepted in these highly important engines for the city’s future economic growth.”