VITAL investment and job creation are being scuppered by the mighty power of the heritage lobby, it was claimed yesterday - on the eve of a planning decision for a regeneration scheme in Liverpool city centre.
The fate of the Central Village scheme on land behind Central Station will be decided later today, but looks likely to be refused.
Business lobby group Downtown Liverpool in Business said a rejection by planners will mark yet another victory for the heritage lobby in the city and added that council leaders must stand up to these "bullies."
DLIB Chairman, Frank McKenna, said: "Central Village scheme would transform what is currently derelict land into a quality shopping, residential and hotel development with 350 car parking places.
"Yet it is facing refusal because of the heritage lobby, despite receiving widespread support locally."
North West developer Central Regeneration has been consulting with the council and regeneration agency Liverpool Vision for two years over the Central Village scheme.
"Liverpool Vision, urban design advisors LUDCAP, English Partnerships and the general public have all expressed strong support for the scheme," said Mr McKenna.
"Even the council's planning department itself was a lead supporter of the scheme until English Heritage intervened.
"Now, with this decision expected to go against Central Village, the unelected and unaccountable heritage lobby will once again have stood in the way of progress and regeneration in this city."
Mr McKenna said this latest decision, coming so soon after the election of a new council leader, would the perfect opportunity to introduce more common sense and consistency back into the planning process.
He added: "If it doesn't, Liverpool is in danger of scaring off other major developers and investors. At the moment, the greatest legacy of the current mood of optimism in Liverpool will be the size of the "what could have been" file it leaves behind.
"If we are going to avoid that, and encourage investors rather than point them towards our major rivals, English Heritage must be a consultee, and not a veto-carrier on all planning matters."