Joe Anderson, mayor of Liverpool, has informed heritage minister John Glen MP of the establishment of the Liverpool World Heritage Board, a body that will seek to work with the Department for Culture, Media & Sport in “re-setting the relationship with Unesco”.
That relationship has long been troubled, and the move from Anderson follows the annual Unesco summit, which received a recommendation that Liverpool’s status should be reviewed at the next summit in 2018.
Anderson has appointed Sir David Henshaw, who was chief executive of Liverpool City Council when the city received World Heritage status in 2004, to lead the team, which will also include Sir Neil Cossons, former chair of English Heritage.
The board meets for the first time today, and also includes Claire Dove, chief executive of Blackburn House Group; Professor Gerald Pillay, vice-chancellor of Hope University; Professor John Belchem, emeritus professor at University of Liverpool; and Professor Michael Parkinson, associate pro vice-chancellor for civic engagement of the University of Liverpool, with more appointments to be made in the coming weeks.
In the letter to the minister, who recently visited Liverpool to discuss the WHS issue, Anderson says: “We greatly value World Heritage Status and recognise that it brings huge benefits in terms of the city’s economy, identity and self-esteem.
“With the impact of austerity we have lost focus on communicating the importance of those benefits as effectively as we previously did. I welcome the Unesco challenge as it will enable us to highlight all the city’s achievements and re-energise the heritage agenda which has been less visible than I would have liked.
“With the support and input of the DCMS I am sure this approach can ensure Liverpool’s World Heritage Status is secured.”
Liverpool City 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.
Critics argue the status dampens development pointing to projects such as One Park West in Liverpool One which would have been taller were it not for proected sight lines such as from Wirral of the Cathedrals behind or of the Pier Head from inland. These required floors to be removed from the original plans before consent could be obtained.
Anderson’s cabinet has also endorsed a new WHS management plan to further enhance conversation efforts and visitor appeal.
Henshaw, who is chairman of National Museums Liverpool, said: “Liverpool’s track record in preserving its unique heritage is beyond question. What has been unfortunate is that the need for economic growth and job creation has clouded the fact that heritage is actually a key ingredient in achieving those goals.
“Liverpool has achieved a huge amount since 2004 in investing in its historic assets but has somewhere along the way failed to demonstrate how this is shaping the city’s future.
“I look forward to working with our partners, both in the city and in government, to achieve a new understanding with Unesco and show how the city can address the concerns it has raised. This is a huge opportunity for Liverpool to showcase why its World Heritage Status is an asset and how it is being utilised to engineer new investment and growth.”