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Failings cost Liverpool its 'Cloud'

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Fundamental flaws at the competition stage of the controversial Fourth Grace scheme in Liverpool were just one of the reasons that led to its downfall, an inquiry has found.

The scrutiny panel investigating the council's decision to dump Will Alsop's 'Cloud' project in July (AJ 22.7.04) has criticised the lack of a clear planning framework at the start of the process.

Site constraints such as 'access, sight lines, height and heritage issues' were not made obvious from the outset and had never been 'satisfactorily resolved'.

The panel's report slams the lack of leadership, claiming that none of the key public-sector agencies, including Liverpool City Council, the Northwest Regional Development Agency and Liverpool Vision, had a clear 'authority to lead and deliver the project'. This led to both delay and duplication.

It also condemns the steering group for failing to address 'significant issues in terms of heritage and planning' - issues that had been raised by CABE as early as February 2003. There were also concerns about the consultation process, which resulted in public support for the scheme being undermined.

And in a final recommendation about the future of the site, the report warns that 'partners should not rush to fill the vacuum with aspirational ideas that have not been adequately evaluated'.

Meanwhile, the consortium behind the project, which bore the brunt of the blame back in July, seems to have emerged from the report unscathed.

Steve Parry, managing director of Neptune Developments, said: 'The Fourth Grace Consortium worked tirelessly for two years on a scheme that fulfilled public-sector aspirations and addressed all the stated constraints and challenges, and this has been acknowledged in today's report.' Alsop was also pleased by the outcome. 'The scrutiny panel has delivered a thoughtful and pragmatic report, ' he said. 'It's nice to know our name has been vindicated. It is important now that lessons are learned and that leaders continue to focus on sustaining the city's recovery, and fulfilling its potential to become an exceptional European Capital of Culture. This is not a time for acrimony or recrimination.' Alsop was also keen to quash months of speculation that the 'Cloud' could be built elsewhere. 'It wouldn't be right for it to go anywhere else. It can go in our next book - The Ones That Got Away.'

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