In Praise of…. Liverpool


What other City in the World not only has buildings as beautiful as these but where you can see them from a deck of a Cruise Liner?

There’s an old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt”. That is partly true. Too often we take the relationship with our loved ones; or the pleasure of satisfactory employment or the lovely place in which we live and forget about it because it is all so familiar too us that we cannot envisage what it would be like if those things were not in place in our lives.

I felt that yesterday when I was taking a group of Chinese planners on a tour of Liverpool. The planners came from central, regional and local governments in China and they were all concerned with developments that protected heritage buildings and heritage areas. It was as I was walking around the city centre with them that I realised once again how lucky I am to live in Liverpool and what great assets we have that we must work to protect.

In the morning the Group had 4 presentations. I spoke about long-term planning in a City based not only on my Liverpool experiences but work I have done globally. Inevitably, the pictures and most of the presentation took place about Liverpool. Mike Eccles, an officer who is responsible for the new Liverpool Development Framework spoke next and I was able to think about the relationship that is needed at the heart of the Council between Members and Officials to make things work. We then had two very interesting presentations about Liverpool Waters and the International Garden Festival site.

After a nice lunch in China Town when we ate real Chinese food and not anglicised Chinese food we went for a walk. We started at the Cunard, walked to the Town Hall, St Nicholas’ Church; down to the start of Liverpool Waters where we stood on the platform over the Canal and looked up the Waters site, across to the terminal site and saw the Albert Dock in the distance past the 3 Graces.

We then walked past the Titanic memorial; the Merchant Navy memorial and discussed the 3 Graces. Outside the Museum we discussed the importance of strong design when placing a new building between the Pier Head and the Royal Albert Dock and how the process must recognise the built form already there and not just plonk something down. We then went to the Albert Dock and looked at the uses there both public and private sector and the three museums.

From there we went to the Liverpool One development and looked down at the remains of the World’s first enclosed dock below. The thought that you could build over and preserve historical developments had clearly not occurred to them. And then back to the Cunard passing first the HQ of the White Star Line and then to the ‘chimney’ of the first tunnel when no-one could guess what the building was for.

Al these buildings were very familiar to me but it was actually when I watched the Chinese visitors taking photographs; talking to each and gesticulating at things they found interesting; taking pictures of those things and asking me questions that I remembered once again what a unique City we live in. Where else in the space of 2.5 hours could I have taken a group of people from another Country and another culture and shown then such a snapshot of high quality development that have taken place over 2.5 centuries? In fact, I could have shown them much more and spent much longer discussing things. I warned them at the outset that my walk could take 2 hours or 2 weeks depending how strong they felt!!

We have, largely successfully, blended the old with the new. We have ensured that most of what is built near the heritage sites are quality buildings although I recognise that ‘quality’ is in the eye of the beholder!

So, they had a good time and I was pleased that my day had been spent showing people from a Country that is clearly one of the World’s most important Countries the good things about our City. Who knows where that might in time lead?

But it made me think again about my life in my city. Those thoughts led in two directions:

  1. What do I do as a politician. It made me even more resolved to defend the best of what is in the City. I made clear yesterday that I am still not satisfied with Liverpool Waters although I am delighted that changes in financing and opportunity have made them withdraw much of the development that threatened our World Heritage Status.


But more needs to be done. We still allowed two tacky developments which have devalued the potential of Lime Street and that our successors will regret. We allow Heaps Mill to rot before our eyes. But there are glimmers of hope. Yesterday the Planning Committee in Liverpool found a spine which enabled it to oppose or defer developments which would damage the environment in Anfield and would threaten the very point of the Baltic Triangle.


  1. What I do as an individual. I became sure that I would do more to emulate Ronnie Hughes. Many of you will know Ronnie from a “Sense of Place”. He and Sarah deliberately live life in the slow lane. They don’t just go somewhere but they enjoy the journey and they use the time to look at, consider and luxuriate in the lovely things that they see. They then share those experiences and encourage us to participate in them.


“What is the point”, I asked myself, “of living in such a great place and not take time out to enjoy it?” So, I have resolved that I will spend more time and do a ‘Ronnie!’


Will I keep to these resolutions? Well Erica will certainly help and perhaps you will too. If my blogs and Tweets do not reflect the mirroring of Liverpool and what I have done please shout at me. I get shouted at so often for the things I do that it might be a pleasant change to be told off for entering the slow lane; sharing my experiences there and luxuriating at the fact that I live in a City and a neighbourhood that I love.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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