Liverpool
The city's WHS status has been under threat since 2012

Unesco: Liverpool Waters has eroded integrity of WHS

Dan Whelan

The agency has recommended the city be stripped of its World Heritage Site designation next month, claiming Peel L&P’s £5bn regeneration project will “irreversibly damage” the site. 

The announcement comes after local leaders pleaded with Unesco to defer its decision on whether or not to let the city keep its title, which has been in the offing since Liverpool Waters was given planning approval in 2012. 

Peel’s project will see 130 acres of former docklands redeveloped over the next 20 years, and much of the site falls within the World Heritage Site and buffer zone. The WHS currently covers 340 acres including the Three Graces, Albert Dock, the Stanley Dock and Duke Street conservation areas, and the city’s commercial and cultural quarters. 

Liverpool City Council’s decision to grant Peel consent for the project prompted Unesco to place the city on its ‘endangered’ list in 2012. The UN body was concerned about how overdevelopment of the waterfront could impact the protected heritage assets. Peel L&P was contacted for comment. 

Nine years on, Unesco has finally moved to delete Liverpool from its list of World Heritage Sites, claiming that not enough has been done to protect the zone and block potentially harmful development. Its recommendation is subject to a vote by Unesco, followed by final approval to strike the site off the list, next month.

“The implementation of the Liverpool Waters project and other large-scale infrastructure projects on the waterfront and northern dock area of the property and its buffer zone have progressively eroded the integrity of the site,” Unesco concluded in a report published yesterday. 

Everton Stadium BMD

The approval of Everton’s new stadium has further harmed Liverpool’s chances of retaining its status

In addition, the agency said that the approval of the Liverpool Waters project and subsequent development have resulted in “serious deterioration” and that the site” has lost characteristics that determined its inclusion in the World Heritage List”.

The city council claims more than £710m has been invested in upgrading 119 heritage assets within the site and its buffer zone, and Unesco did concede that there had been “some successful projects” aimed at protecting the Liverpool’s World Heritage Status. 

But overall, Unesco said there had been a “lack of commitment” to protect the World Heritage Site by deciding not to block the Liverpool Waters project or Everton’s £500m stadium project at Bramley-Moore Dock. 

“The approved planning application for a new football stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock adds to the ascertained threat on the site’s outstanding universal value,” Unesco said. 

Reaction 

Liverpool City Region Metro Mayer Steve Rotheram 

“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. 

“As a host of regional leaders reiterated last week, much work has been done to protect and restore heritage sites and we have made it clear that we do not want to lose world heritage status. I would urge the committee to heed our call to defer any decision and take up our invitation to visit us and see what we are doing collectively, rather than taking their decision sat around a table a long way away from the place it affects.” 

Former Liverpool City Mayor Joe Anderson 

“Eight years of futile talks, people who have never seen city, sitting in judgement. Liverpool is not a museum it’s a vibrant growing city in need of jobs and investment. The city will thrive without [the WHS] badge.” 

Housing Minister Robert Jenrick 

“Disappointing move by Unesco. Liverpool demonstrably has world class heritage sites and Unesco should support imaginative urban regeneration, not fight against it.” 

City Mayor Joanne Anderson

“We want to engage with the committee members and invite them to fully appraise all that has been achieved since the committee last met in 2019, and to review all that the council is seeking to achieve in the next 12 months.

“We think deletion would be hugely unfair given all this body of work has not yet been assessed by the committee members and we need them to see Bramley Moore Dock with their own eyes – physically or virtually.”

Your Comments

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World heritage trying to hold back Liverpool as per usual

By Kev stevens

Funny how no feathers were ruffled when the giant glass Shard was built next to the UNESCO site of the Tower of London. The area has been a barren wasteland for half a century nearly. The city shouldn’t be held back and bullied by this faceless group any longer.

By L1Don

I looked at the Unesco website today , and throughout the whole of Europe they have only 2 sites that they regard as endangered, one is in Vienna and the other is Liverpool.
I have been to a number of cities in Europe with WHO sites ( Marseille, Hamburg etc) and they have modern developments near them but Unesco turn a blind eye, or give them a finger-wagging.
Why don`t they just get off Liverpool`s case , and also admit the the WHO site is too big and sprawling.

By Anonymous

Interesting to note that virtually none of the signatories to the letter ‘pleading’ to retain the status work in the private sector. If you go on social media and look at what people in Liverpool’s private sector are saying it can best be summarised as ‘good riddance’.

Funny how it’s those who take great risks to earn a living who see the importance of development to Liverpool’s economy, whilst those who feed off their taxes are right behind Team Quangocracy.

By Sceptical

Shocking decision, instead of dictating how the city goes forward, why not work collectively. Most of the WHS is underground and isn’t even visible. The 3 graces are built of obsolete docks (St George’s) – let’s tear them down and reinstate the derelict docks.

By TJL

It’s pretty obvious to any intelligent individual that World Heritage Status is a city killing farce. To date Liverpool has gained ZERO from having this title but instead arguably lost out on a decade of development and growth as the city planners pander both inside the World Heritage Zone and its surrounding buffer zone (which is most of central Liverpool) to arbitrary sight lines, caps on building heights and other nonsense which far from protecting the city either deters investors and job creation, leaves sites derelict or results in dross architecture that cannot under any circumstances ‘stand out’ against this suffocating heritage context. It’s so ironic that a city of iconic architecture from every era of it’s history has now been put on ice by some far away un-elected and faceless organisation that invariably opposes all development in the city no matter how much the city liaises with and takes guidance from them, Everton being best example of this with the new stadium proposal, which must go ahead.

Why on earth Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham is so keen to keep this absurd drag on the city’s progress is anyone’s guess, I only wish he was this pro-active on issues that really are important to the city such as HS2 and the snub the city region has received on that, but that’s another issue.

The rest of the north has benefitted from Liverpool being held down by it’s history and lead by a hapless local political class, time to sort out at least one of these issues and ditch World Heritage Status and build BIGGER (and better).

By Michael McDonough

Liverpool is not Pompeii. People need to function there and earn a living. I think that these accolades can stop progress and detract investors. Liverpool will still have the best waterfront in Europe with or without this fur coat no knickers gong.

By Elephant

World Heritage status means you have something worth protecting – and the site is the main reason why Liverpool is considered as a world city in a way that Manchester (where I live, and am proud of) could never be. The WHS is the goose that lays golden eggs, but the city leaders and private sector can’t see beyond immediate development-at-any-costs and profit. This is nothing to do with LIverpool being held back. It is about showing respect to something of international importance and building on this to make something even more special – many WHS are able to sucessfully integrate modern development. I wouldn’t expect the private sector (who essentially exist to make a profit) to get this, but surely there are enough world class urban planners and architects who would have jumped at the chance to leave a real legacy for Liverpool. UNESCO gave Liverpool almost a decade to come up with a better plan, But they have chosen not to. Shame.

By Peter Black

Hopefully they will do the city of Liverpool a favour and withdrawn this , my fear is that when they do that local decisions will still be as they where previously – small minded anti-development with no outlook , cowering to external bodies because they haven’t got a clue how a city should be run. either way the city needs fresh ideas local planning needs to be replaced with fresh faces etc.

By Anonymous

This is so ridiculous, this status has held Liverpool back for years now with countless developers being told to pack up and leave the City, cancelling plans for regeneration. They seem to love to meddle in Liverpool whereas Manchester and London get an easy ride putting skyscrapers up wherever, whenever.

By Paul

Good riddance and lets build a brigther future, our lovely buildings and scenic vistas will still be here. Looks like they have nothing better to do than interfere in our economic and commercial ventures. We are a living thriving city and need growth and investment WHS is holding this back.

By Paul Bergin

The real question is… who will you blame once UNESCO are out of the picture?

By Anonymous

And you wonder why Manchester and Salford did not pursue the proposal to seek World Heritage Status bid for Castlefield, Ancoats and Worsley nearly 20 years ago!

By Anonymous

Everton Football Club’s legacy will be that of the removal of Liverpool’s World Heritage status. It seems madness to have a stadium where access is only possible from one side and having to fill in the dock at the cost of millions. Why not move it elsewhere, build it at less costs, get the benefits of regeneration and keep our heritage status? When these docks were built they were a revolutionary design and the world copied us – they are something to be extremely proud of – now we are filling them in.

By nh

Who cares what UNESCO thinks. It’s a world class water front with or without WHS designation and we all know it.

Pointless pandering to a bunch of backward looking international tree huggers who can’t even be bothered to visit and make a proper on the ground assessment. The tourists will still come and Liverpool desperately need to continue to regenerate itself.

By Grumpy Old Git

Economic evolution rather than prioritising the past if ive remembered rightly.

By Phildered

The Everton stadium project is so far advanced now how can it be halted, as if that happens years of design and financial planning will be ditched , and may well put an end to any ground move for the next 10/20 years.
All of the hopes for regenerating North Liverpool and South Sefton will flounder on the sandbar that is Unesco, an organisation that justifies it`s own existence on nothing more than whimsical decisions depending on what mood they are in at any given time.

By Anonymous

I for one say good riddance to Unesco and any UN organisations, they have not covered themselves in glory in the past and they are tainted by all sorts of problems.

By Democrazy