World Heritage UK, the umbrella group representing the UK’s 31 World Heritage sites, has issued a statement expressing its support for Liverpool in the city’s bid to heal its uneasy relationship with global awarding body Unesco.
Liverpool’s World Heritage Site has been on the Unesco “in danger” list since 2012, with the organisation expressing concern regarding over-development in the city; principally in the case of tall buildings potentially coming forward within Liverpool Waters and surrounding areas that come under the World Heritage buffer zone.
World Heritage UK has said that it is aware of “three positive initatives” taken by Liverpool City Council and Peel to minimise the risk of Liverpool losing World Heritage Status and to ultimately take it off the ‘endangered’ list.
In October last year, the city council informed the government that it had set up the Liverpool World Heritage Board, a task force chaired by ex-council chief executive Sir David Henshaw, to work with the DCMS on repairing the Unesco relationship.
The council said that almost £750m has been invested into historic assets within the Unesco-approved part of the city since 2012, including the upgrade of 37 listed buildings, among them the Aloft Hotel at 1 North John Street, Central Library and Stanley Dock, investments reflected in its Desired State of Conservation Report identifed by World Heritage UK as its second reason for backing Liverpool.
The third comes with the maturing of the Liverpool Waters masterplan, which now shows a more neighbourhood-based approach than many had initially feared from early indicative images.
The group said: “World Heritage UK warmly welcomes all these initiatives and believes that they signal a genuine change of mood in Liverpool. On behalf of all of the UK’s World Heritage Sites, we ask Unesco to open a process of constructive dialogue with the UK government and Liverpool’s stakeholders, in the hope that this will lead to a change in the position they have previously taken on Liverpool’s World Heritage Site.
“We further hope that the government will fully engage with the process, thus enabling then to fulfil their international obligations and responsibilities under the World Heritage Convention. As Liverpool’s ‘Desired State of Conservation Report’ notes, there has been spectacular progress in restoring Liverpool’s historic buildings, in the World Heritage Site and beyond. The number of heritage ‘buildings at risk’ has been reduced to only 2.75% of the building stock – far below the UK national average.”
Chris Blandford, World Heritage UK president, said of Liverpool Waters: ‘Whilst the revised plan is still at an early stage, we believe that it has the potential to deliver a far more coherent, sensitive and appropriate development form, one which better respects the site’s outstanding universal value, and is better integrated with Stanley Dock and the adjacent Ten Streets regeneration area’.
Sam Rose, the organisation’s chairman, said: ‘Cities grow and change, as they always have done, and there will always be conflicts and tensions in the protection of the outstanding universal value of urban World Heritage Sites. We see no situation that is not resolvable with early and constructive dialogue, and we encourage that now in the case of Liverpool.
“It would be a big loss for the outstanding heritage of the UK, and for the people and businesses of Liverpool if this iconic city was to lose its deserved global status’.