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Is the tide turning on planning and regeneration in Liverpool?

Liverpool Skyline
By Beth Tarling
28 March 2024
Community & Stakeholder Engagement
Planning Communications and Consultation

It’s no secret that it has been a difficult few years for Liverpool. In 2021, the council relinquished significant control to government commissioners, after the lid was lifted on corruption and misconduct within the authority. Reports of failures relating to planning and regeneration were rife, and senior politicians found themselves facing arrest. In the same year, Liverpool was also stripped of its coveted UNESCO world heritage status, with the body concluding that the “outstanding universal value” of its waterfront had been destroyed by new buildings. It’s no wonder then that the brakes were firmly back on in the worlds of property and infrastructure.

So, what next for this otherwise much-loved Northern city? The location of choice for last year’s Eurovision Song Contest, there seems to be a renewed sense of optimism in the air. That was certainly the message on the ground at MIPIM, where political and corporate leaders from Liverpool City Council and the Combined Authority put on a united front that provided delegates from the property sector with reassurance that the city is now in safe hands.

Indeed, in just the last month, the government commissioners sent to run the council have started to loosen the reins. It's ability to appoint senior managers is being returned and it will regain oversight of its finance and highways functions from the end of this week. Council Leader, Cllr Liam Robinson said the move signaled that the council has “made significant progress over the last nine months” and reassured that work is continuing “at pace” to deal with areas where progress is still required, such as property management.

Simultaneously, planning and regeneration in the city appear to be turning a corner. AstraZeneca’s recent decision to invest £450m in a new facility in Speke has been viewed as a vote of confidence in Liverpool and progress is being made on regeneration initiatives such as Festival Gardens. Speaking at the Convention of the North at the start of the month, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove also announced a £3m government funding boost for Liverpool’s Knowledge Quarter.

Housing, transport, and infrastructure will undoubtedly be key focuses of Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram’s campaign for a third term in office too. Earlier this month, Mr Rotheram said he wants Liverpool City Region to take a “big chunk” of the 1.5 million homes Labour is proposing ahead of the General Election. He is also keen on boosting transport infrastructure to provide connections between key growth areas in the city.

If that wasn’t enough, Liverpool’s Combined Authority has this week voted to begin the planning process for the world’s largest tidal scheme across the River Mersey. If it goes ahead, the 700MW project could generate a clean and secure source of energy for over a century to come, whilst creating thousands of jobs and putting Liverpool on the map as a pioneer in the race to net zero.

There will of course still be challenges to come for Liverpool. Not least, getting major projects through a sluggish and politicised planning system, the lack of office space in the city, and ongoing pressure to prove its critics wrong. Nevertheless, it seems safe to say that the tide is turning in a positive way.