After a secret ballot vote, Unesco formally stripped the city of its World Heritage status on 21 July.
The city and its waterfront had been a World Heritage Site since 2004. The 340-acre World Heritage Site included the Three Graces, Albert Dock, the Stanley Dock and Duke Street conservation areas, as well as the city’s commercial and cultural quarters. Unesco had warned the city was at risk of losing its status in 2012, when the organisation put the city on its “endangered” list.
Unesco cited the development at Liverpool Waters by Peel L&P as a key reason for the decision. That includes the plans for an Everton FC stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock. Unesco said that the £5bn Peel regeneration project would “irreversibly damage” the site.
Chris Capes, director of development for Peel L&P’s Liverpool Waters, said the Unesco decision was “very disappointing”, but the development work going on in Liverpool is important.
“Regeneration for this part of the city is vital and, like our partners across the city region, we are focused on delivering it – creating new homes, commercial space, amenities, public realm, leisure facilities and key infrastructure on previously disused brownfield land,” Capes said.
“We will show the world that regeneration and the protection of Liverpool’s heritage can happen together.”
Paul Cherpeau, chief executive of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, called losing the World Heritage status a “glancing blow,” but said it is unlikely that it will significantly undermine the city’s visitor economy.
“We must move forward with confidence to pursue projects which will further strengthen our economic future without diluting our illustrious past,” he said.
Cherpeau did admit disappointment over the decision.
“It would of course be better for Liverpool to retain World Heritage Status, but not at the expense of developing our city for the benefit of future generations,” he said.
“Liverpool has wonderful heritage assets and huge potential for growth; those two opportunities can co-exist in harmony and we must not try to play one off against the other,” Cherpeau continued. “It’s a shame, therefore, that UNESCO has taken this decision without further investigation.”
Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of Liverpool City Region said the area was still proud of its history and criticised the organisation for not delving deeper into Liverpool’s situation.
“Today’s decision by Unesco is a retrograde step that does not reflect the reality of what is happening on the ground,” Rotheram said. “Indeed, this was a decision taken on the other side of the world by people who do not appear to understand the renaissance that has taken place in recent years.
“But many of the sites cited by Unesco are in communities sorely in need of investment,” he continued. “Places like Liverpool should not be faced with the binary choice between maintaining heritage status or regenerating left-behind communities – and the wealth of jobs and opportunities that come with it. We did not want to lose our World Heritage Status, but nor could we allow it to preserve our region in aspic, while the world evolves around us.
“This is a really disappointing decision,” Rotheram said. “But I am confident that our city will remain a vibrant and attractive cultural destination and – as we rebuild from the pandemic – will continue to welcome millions of people to our city and wider city region.”
Adam Hall, director of Liverpool-based architect Falconer Chester Hall, said: “Liverpool has a big, dynamic economy that has been successfully re-structured in recent decades and I don’t think this decision will derail the city’s growth. I never saw any proof that Unesco’s accreditation, welcome as it was, was a decisive factor in the city’s booming tourism market, for example.
“Liverpool has walked a very careful middle course between conservation and regeneration based on good, modern architecture and a responsive planning regime. I have been of the view that this has worked very well and that the city is the better for it. It’s a pity that Unesco thinks differently but it’s their ball and they can take it away if they wish.
“The city still has regeneration challenges and many historic sites and buildings lend themselves well to reuse. Others, perhaps not, but the need to grow the economy and provide work have to be taken into consideration. Liverpool will continue to grow and prosper.”