An analysis of the situation in Liverpool and Vienna reveals that that the two cities are fundamentally facing the same issue – economic interests driven by market forces are taking precedence over conservation concerns in key historic precincts. The leadership in both cities is leaning toward achieving more conventional notions of development like, creating jobs, increasing housing stock, etc. However, there seems to be a slight difference in the changing attitude of both cities – Vienna is sticking its ground on the decisions being taken but, Liverpool is now (at least in principle) making attempts to try and resolve the issue in a manner acceptable to all.
In Liverpool, is the added complication of the city trying to come out of a period of neglect and regression (Rodwell, 2014). While the attendees of the Engage series were in agreement that development should not take precedence, it should be noted that they only represent a segment of the population. There is also a section whose primary concern is more fundamental issues like jobs and affordable housing (Blandford 2017, pers. com.). Hence, the legislation is not completely out-of-line. But, at the moment, Liverpool doesn’t require such rampant infrastructure development – it already has vast reserves of underutilized building stock (Rodwell, 2014:31). Thus, instead of taking an aggressive stance, the city needs to mature into evolving a more long-term urban vision. The actions of today are making the heritage of tomorrow. Lest it be, that heritage is not found worthy in the future.
Liverpool has also done little to promote and fully capitalize on the WHS brand (ICC, 2012:23,24,37) but, the awareness and pressure brought by the 2017 Engage Liverpool series has possibly influenced the formation of the Task Force and the student competition. Ideally, Module 2 (0923294): Are Conservation and Development Mutually Exclusive in the Historic Urban Landscape? A Study of Liverpool and Vienna.
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this will contribute to fresh designs and ideas for future development that does not pit conservation against development.
Vienna however, does not have this baggage. It is a city that has seen uninterrupted progress and has retained the premier spot on the Quality of Living Survey for eight years (Mercer, 2017). It has, in the past, managed to use heritage effectively to promote development, cultural tourism and hence economic growth, through a perceptive approach in its planning legislation. Despite the contentions with UNESCO, a new study was also conducted by the Federal Monuments Authority in collaboration with the City of Vienna on “historic roof constructions in the historic centre” (WHC UNESCO, 2017:120). However now, the primary issue in Vienna is that alterations in legislation are making it possible to conceive and grant permissions for developments that violate the integrity and authenticity of the site. Several such proposals are slowly permeating the historic urban fabric which will collectively lead to a loss of historic value and identity. The city now seems to be seeing heritage as an obstacle rather than an enabler of development, a stance quite contrary to what it adopted when it led heritage regeneration projects in several of its districts (Gasometer area – third district, Jewish neighborhood – second district). Additionally, the contribution of the proposed development does not outweigh its negative impact on the heritage value of the site, as it does not address immediate concerns of the city (Rasinger 2017, pers. com.) – providing social housing for the refugees accepted under the ‘Welcome Policy’ of the City of Vienna (Intercontinental Hotel proposal includes a residential tower but, apartments within will be sold at premium costs and hence not be affordable).
Also, ironically, even though the city has developed much due to its heritage and NGOs like Initiative Stadtbildshutz are striving to bring about public consciousness and involvement in the developmental process (Initiative Stadtbildshutz, 2017), the City Council has not made any Module 2 (0923294): Are Conservation and Development Mutually Exclusive in the Historic Urban Landscape? A Study of Liverpool and Vienna.
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notable effort to create awareness about the value of heritage and culture to the city (Rasinger 2017, pers. com.).
Both cities have the advantage of the WHS brand (which provenly brings with it the potential to amplify any benefits of regeneration efforts) but, have done little to reap its benefits (ICC,2012:37). While it can be argued that this is inessential for retaining historicity and is hindering required development, it should be seen as a check and balance mechanism that creates opportunities to enable better, more inclusive urban development that is rooted in the local context.
Developing a robust planning policy, staying true to the vision it outlines and, ensuring its rightful implementation, are all essential. Liverpool does not have strict planning regulations enforced and this weakness is being cashed upon by opportunist stakeholders (Rodwell, 2014:24; Proctor 2017, pers. com.). The city’s supplementary planning document has received acclaim (URBACT, 2011:16-18; Rasinger 2017, pers. com.) but, Liverpool has demonstrated negligence in its authentic implementation (Blandford 2017, pers. com.; Proctor 2017, pers. com.). Vienna however, has solid planning strategies and instruments but lately has fallen short on living up to its own commitment. Liverpool’s decisions to grant consent for/support projects that deviate from allowable limits (consent for Lexington Tower, retrospective planning permission for Shankley Hotel) (Proctor 2017, pers. com.) and, Vienna’s alterations to planning regulations within the historic city in addition to the Council’s expression of contempt by scheduling citizen’s petition hearings to dates after legal decisions are made on the concerned issues, support this claim (Rasinger, 2017:104,105). Module 2 (0923294): Are Conservation and Development Mutually Exclusive in the Historic Urban Landscape? A Study of Liverpool and Vienna.
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With changing times, developmental agendas like those taking shape in Liverpool and Vienna are not misplaced. The issue is when they contend with elements that have leant the city its character. In such situations, a more sensitive and holistic approach is required. Possibly, a more conservative approach can be adopted within the historic districts and a more liberal one in surrounding areas. This will help ease market pressures in the historic centers and still cater to contemporary requirements albeit, they would be outside this zone.
In both cities, if creating jobs and retaining businesses is a key concern then, historic buildings provide the infrastructure required to achieve this. Research shows, that heritage led regeneration brings with it, high returns on investment (Colliers, 2011 as cited in HE, 2016b; HE, 2017:10; CHCfE, 2015:24), nurtures creative/entrepreneurial thought (HLF, 2013; CGCfE, 2015:24), feeds the growing tourism economy (HE, 2016b), creates significant numbers of jobs (CHCfE, 2015:21), improves places and the quality of life thus building social capital and civic pride (HE, 2016a; HE, 2017:11; CHCfE, 2015:28,29; ICC, 2012) while, reducing carbon footprint (HE, 2017:8; CHCfE, 2015:28).
Major recommendations –
1. To address long-term concerns, both cities should develop and execute on strong HIA guidelines (not necessarily only within the WHS) so that critical proposals are vetted thoroughly.
2. Recommendations of advisory bodies should be treated as positive critique that will help develop more inclusive cities. Sustainable development can only be achieved if it builds on the inherent urban identity (historic, tangible and intangible).
3. HUL should be comprehended as a whole and not in segments – all development should be assessed on the basis of its overall impact.
Module 2 (0923294): Are Conservation and Development Mutually Exclusive in the Historic Urban Landscape? A Study of Liverpool and Vienna.
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4. Creation of awareness amongst local population and developers on the benefits of heritage led development and cultural value to cities is essential.
5. Treat urban zones identified as historically crucial as, sectors low on new intervention and high on regeneration and, complementary zones outside of these sectors as, high on new interventions. This compensates for growing needs and contemporary design philosophies without compromising the integrity of existing urban fabric