A VISION OF LIVERPOOL
A review of our January meeting
On 16th January, Graham Marshall spoke to an attentive audience about the work of the country's first urban regeneration company: 'Liverpool Vision'. Set up by the government 18 months ago, this organisation aims to involve the private sector; and Mr Marshall himself, its Planning Director, had come from a private sector background. But, unlike traditional private developers, the aim is the long-term revitalisation of Liverpool rather than short-term financial gain.
A number of feasibility studies have been commissioned: looking at ways of encouraging the speculative building of new office blocks in the Commercial District, along with the potential for a 'Fourth Grace' (an unfamiliar term which resulted in many puzzled looks - Mr Marshall meant another large building at the Pier Head!) and the future of The Strand (which as a main traffic route tends to cut off the city from its river). Among the company's broad aims are to ease the movement of cars to the edge of the city centre (but not beyond), and to enable more people to live right in the heart of Liverpool. The most important objective, though, Mr Marshall explained, is 'to get things built - not just to talk about it'. And a theme he kept returning to was that Liverpool must keep its traditional character - 'not try and become another Trafford Centre' - and capitalise on its assets: especially the 'world class' waterfront.
Mr Marshall's talk stimulated a large number of questions from the audience. What will happen to Chavasse Park? Isn't Liverpool's image its biggest problem? Can the city's population decline be halted? Are Liverpool's listed buildings an attraction or a deterrent to developers? Many of the questions were politely sceptical, but most of Mr Marshall's answers were positive, and we were left with the impression of a man with clear ideas, who 'feels' for Liverpool (though only having been here a short time) and is not afraid to speak his mind. But we were also made aware that the really important decisions are likely to be made by others. We heard of the two rival retail schemes for the city centre, and the six alternative proposals for the Kings Dock area. So many ambitious plans have come and gone during the past 30 years, that we were left wondering whether these would be any different. We can only hope that, in Mr Marshall and his colleagues at Liverpool Vision, our city has at last found the secret of success.