English Heritage have released a new volume of their ‘Constructive Conservation’ series, this one entitled Sustainable Growth for Historic Places. It’s all about the benefits of re-using historic buildings for new purposes, and the effects not only on the bottom line of the developer, but also the ability of these buildings to attract customers and tourists, and the benefits of creating an attractive and enjoyable place to work in. Read more
It’s the end of 2010. It’s been an… interesting year politically – a coalition government for the first time in my lifetime; frequent use of the word ‘swingeing’ in many and varied ways; the Conservation Centre is shutting its doors to the public; and snow is keeping you indoors reading this.
But what else has happened this year? Anything to warm our annual nostalgia cockles?
2010 started on an optimistic note – it was the World Museum’s 250th anniversary, though this was somewhat overshadowed with the closure of the Conservation Centre.
February saw start of the excellent Streets of Liverpool blog. Later in February the keys were handed over for the new Museum of Liverpool, although controversy rose its ugly head later in the year when a historic view was shown to have been blocked.
March and April went by in a blur (oh yes, probably because I got married) and when things recovered the election was fast approaching. At the same time Lewis’s was heading for closure as everyone felt the pinch of recession.
In July the first object – a carriage from the Overhead Railway – moved into the museum, but at the same time the North West Development Agency closed its doors. Another funding source for culture had disappeared.
The Peel Waters project cropped up again and again in 2010. English Heritage expressed concerns about the effect of the new buildings on the World Heritage Site, while in later months Council Leader Joe Anderson reacted angrily to what he saw as EH’s interference with Liverpool’s development and future prospects. Meanwhile we were spoiled for heritage and arts projects, including: Edge Hill station being turned into an arts venue, Heritage Open Days bringing people into Liverpool’s historic water supply, the funding of conservation for 95,000 aerial photographs of England as well as Visible in Stone – women’s history and the built environment and in October Black History Month. Finally, Historic Liverpool underwent a bit of a redesign, although it’s far from a finished project. Here’s to another year of additions to that!
Phew! Liverpool and its heritage have had their ups and downs this year. We’ve celebrated the old, welcomed in the new (mostly) and commemorated the highs and lows of Liverpool’s past and imminent future.
Any predictions for the coming 12 months? Or is that an impossible task? And as for 2011, what kind of posts would you like to see here? More about researching Liverpool local history? Should I keep to the news and concentrate the history on Historic Liverpool? Or something completely different?
Council Leader Joe Anderson has hit out at English Heritage for what he sees as the over-reaching influence and meddling of the ‘heritage lobbyists’ in the future development of Liverpool.
Anderson’s current gripe is related to the Liverpool Waters project, which English Heritage advised to be reduced. Since their input, the number of tall buildings has been reduced, and the centrepiece Shanghai Tower moved back from the waterfront.
The Daily Post has a balanced editorial stating that heritage matters should be considered hand in hand with development progress, and points out that many historic buildings have been brought back into use successfully in this and other cities. Coincidentally, part of the current Biennial art festival concentrates on the re-use of derelict buildings for public enjoyment.
So does heritage hold back development? As Naomi Peck, project manager of Peel’s Liverpool Waters development team said: “English Heritage would most probably be happy to see everything as it is, because that is what they do – they preserve old buildings… The scheme could have been perhaps a little more magnificent, but obviously we had to take into consideration it is a World Heritage Site.”
So, English Heritage preserve old buildings, and World Heritage Site = no magnificence, thank you very much.
Developers preventing development
Looking at this from the other direction, is heritage really the stumbling block? Is the Albert Dock a less ‘magnificent’ development because of all the heritage? Or is the heritage key to its attraction? (OK, enough rhetorical questions.) The flats at the King’s Dock and in the former warehouses at the Waterloo Docks are massively successful examples of historic buildings reuse which have not harmed the historic environment. There are other developments – the very magnificent Great Court at the British Museum and World Museum Liverpool, for example – which have added modern architectural elements to historically important buildings.
However, Joe Anderson shouldn’t be surprised or dismayed when ‘heritage lobbyists’ kick up a fuss about wrecking a World Heritage Site with modern ‘ego architecture‘ (subscription required) – massive developments which are all about money and prestige, and nothing about quality of life in the long run. Anderson may have a different point of view, but I don’t want Liverpool to turn into the Shanghai/New York of the West/Europe. I want Liverpool to be The Liverpool.
The solution to Anderson’s problem is not to stop groups like English Heritage and the Civic Societies from airing their views. Rather it is for the architects to produce creative, attractive modern designs keeping in scale with the current landscape. Even completely new builds like Liverpool One can achieve this, and the Echo Arena for another great example: it’s unashamedly modern (and I’d say attractive), but it doesn’t try to take over the whole skyline.
Compare this imagined scenario to the original article:
He said: “The Wellington Rooms, in Mount Pleasant, and other listed buildings are lying derelict because of the poor designs by the architects would have trashed the building.
“The former Irish Centre was the subject of a planning application, which was even supported by the Bishop, to attach some sort of hotel on it. The architect, supported by the leader of the city council, stopped it going ahead by failing to produce a decent building, and now it is deteriorating in front of our eyes.”
OK, so that’s a bit of fun, but remember: it’s not investment that English Heritage are blocking, nor development. It’s poor architecture. There’s one easy way to get development going, and that’s to design something creative, with life-span and beauty, and which adds to, and doesn’t replace, the amazing architecture we have been left by those who came before us.
Note: all views in this post are my own.
English Heritage and London Metropolitan University today launch Visible in Stone, a project and online resource to explore the influence women had on the built environment during a century of intense social change.
After the Second World War, and the undeniably essential jobs done by women during 1939-45 occupying the gaps left by conscripted men, women had gained political and social rights perhaps undreamed of by their ancestors of one hundred years before. However, the journey to this point began to take off around 1850, and the Visible in Stone project seeks to publicise the archives and information which bring this journey to life.
How this ties in to this blog and the very phrase ‘visible in stone’ lies in the institutions and organisations which campaigning women and men formed themselves to fight for rights such as suffrage. An example is the meeting of the Manchester National Society for Women’s Suffrage in the Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1868. As the English Heritage page says: “The buildings … are a monument to those women who had the tenacity and courage to argue for and capture their vision for our future.” Wash houses, lodgings, offices and even shops were all arenas where women began to change their place in society.
I have to admit that my knowledge of this type of history in Liverpool is limited, although I know that the city is one of three (along with Derby and London) which has a monument to Florence Nightingale (at the corner of Princes Road). In addition, the first trained Nightingale nurses began work at the Liverpool Workhouse Infirmary.
The Visible in Stone project is perfect for one such as I then, as they want your help. There is a Visible in Stone Flickr group associated with the project where you can add your photos of buildings important to women’s history. This should build into a collection of images to celebrate the journey from 1850 to 1950, and highlight the impact on the built environment this period and these people had. Do go and see if you can contribute.
But, while you’re here, are there any more places on Merseyside with an essential role for women between 1850 and 1950? Let us know in the comments.
A lot of the themes covered in this blog post, as well as Visible in Stone can be found in Women’s History: Britain, 1850-1945: An Introduction, edited by June Pervis. The book consists of chapters dealing each with a theme on the topic, and is an introduction to women’s history.
If you’d like to support this blog, please consider buying this book through the affiliate link. Click on the book cover to go to Amazon.
There’s a lot of bits of interest dotted around the place at the moment, so tonight I’m going to concentrate on the serious stuff, with a couple of more fun things later in the week!
Understanding your local history
Local groups are some of the most important people to help protect the historic parts of our towns and cities. Along with planners, developers and local government, they have the greatest influence on what happens (or doesn’t happen) to historic buildings.
English Heritage have recognised this in their latest guidance notes called Understanding Place (see the Related Publications link on the right). The documents focus on Historic Area Assessments, which are one method of ‘characterisation’ which aims to assess the significance of a historic place through objective research using maps and other documents (it’s a bit like what I do for Historic Liverpool!).
If you’re part of a community group, or it’s your job to study local history and archaeology in a planning and development context, download the free PDFs from EH’s website.
On a wider scope, English Heritage are also asking for your opinion on the National Heritage Protection Plan (NHPP). There’s a survey linked to from their NHPP web page.
Merger questions for two of Liverpool’s major agencies
Liverpool Vision (public sector body dealing with regeneration) and the Mersey Partnership (part-public funded, concerned with tourism and investment) may merge as part of efficiency savings by Liverpool Council.
A report is being written by Professor Michael Parkinson of John Moores University, after the council’s new leader Joe Anderson ordered a review. The North West Development Agency (NWDA), as major funders of both bodies, are also in support of the report. Anderson said: “I want to make sure we are efficient and delivering the best possible services and that overlaps and duplication are taken out of the system”.
Do you think a merger will have a positive effect on Liverpool? Or will any cuts risk the city’s continued resurgence?
What do you really think of the Mann Island developments? I mean – really? Now’s your chance to let Matt Brook, the man responsible for the “people-orientated approach for design” at Mann Island, know. For more, through-gritted-teeth, details, go to the new Seven Streets website.
They’re article Total Eclipse of the Heart is quite, well, heartfelt too.
Every month or so English Heritage releases a new issue of Conservation Bulletin (ConBull), and the latest issue is on Conservation Areas (available in PDF and Microsoft Word formats). Conservation Areas (CAs) were created with the aim of ‘preserving and enhancing’ the built character of a location, and it’s worth flicking through this ConBull for its relevance to areas of Liverpool.
The document is the collected work of experts in the field of conservation, though what is refreshing in recent English Heritage publications is the emphasis on a balance between preservation and development, which can often be in stark contrast to the most conservative Nimby opinion pieces (you know who you are!).
This issue thankfully takes into account the social and economic benefits of preserving historic urban and rural areas, which can only aid the argument for their protection. The whole publication aims to integrate CAs into a positive role as part of the planning process, partcicularly in struggling economies where CAs can easily be cast as an an obstruction to recovery.
What is revealed is that Conservation Areas, in the British sense, are unique in the world – other countries tend to include natural formations within the Conservation Areas definition (what we might in the UK call Sites of Special Scientific Interest, or perhaps Nature Reserves). Examples of this type can be found in China, Australia and Mexico, and this magazine visits all three areas for a comparative look.
Of major interest are the methods by which Conservation Areas are designated. Just as it is useful to know your chances of getting a local building listed, it pays to understand how the professionals judge the importance of CAs, and how the practice of dealing with threats to them works. This issue of ConBull is therefore useful if you live in and wish to help conservation efforts in a local CA.
As an interesting aside, it is reported in this issue that Sefton Park was valued by CABE at £105 million. I’m not sure what this price was based on, but it helps put the Park into context of the interest in economic value of CAs.
The most promising thing about this Conservation Bulletin, and a lesson for us all perhaps, is that it shows that English Heritage do not consider Conservation Areas to be ‘set and forget’ designations. They are part of the planning process, part of people’s living and working environments, and as such should be considered as evolving parts of the landscape, just like the cities in which they sit.
Do you live in one of Liverpool’s Conservation Areas? What are your attitudes to change? What’s distinctive about the place and what is under threat?
Conservation Areas were created in 1967 as part of the Civic Amenities Act. There are 9300 in England, nearly 40 if which are in Liverpool. The aim of CAs is to allow authorities to “determine which parts of their area are areas of special architectural or historic interest the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance” Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (c. 9) (c. 9)