|Papers prepared for the July 2017 UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting strongly criticise the UK state party – the Department of Culture, Media and Sport led by Secretary of State Karen Bradley – for inadequate governance systems and planning mechanisms that threaten to undermine the protection of Liverpool’s World Heritage Site.
Liverpool was inscribed in 2004 for its outstanding universal value as, ‘the supreme example of a commercial port at the time of Britain’s greatest global influence’. Its World Heritage Site stretches from the iconic Three Graces on the waterfront to St George’s Hall and Lime Street Station, and covers some 136 hectares of the city.
The city has been on the ‘World Heritage in Danger’ list since 2012 due to concerns about the harmful impact of large scale new development – namely the Liverpool Waters proposals. This highly contentious scheme would see construction of several skyscrapers along the waterfront, the tallest at 55 storeys. Unusually it has a planning permission valid until 2042.
Only two other countries in Europe have sites on the ‘in Danger’ list – Kosovo, and Georgia. Dresden is so far the only one of the 1,000 sites worldwide to have been stripped of its status.
According to the papers, the World Heritage Committee is set to express, ‘its deep concern that the projects already approved as well as those approved in outline have actual and potential highly adverse and irreversible impacts on the OUV (Outstanding Universal Value) of the property.’
It adds that, ‘it is also recommended that the Committee retain the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger but consider its deletion from the World Heritage List at its 42nd session in 2018, if the State Party does not reverse course and stop the granting of planning permissions which have a negative impact on the OUV of the property [and] provide substantive commitments to limitation on the quantity, location and size of allowable built form.’
Henrietta Billings, Director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, said: “This is a final warning shot for Liverpool and the British Government. International heritage status doesn’t just put Liverpool on the world stage, it brings cultural tourism, urban regeneration, and sustainable visitor attractions. Losing it because of crass planning decisions would be an international embarrassment as well as a hugely costly mistake.”
Professor John Belchem, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Liverpool, who was closely involved in securing Liverpool’s World Heritage Site status, said: “Having led the way in regeneration through conservation and the cultural path to urban renewal and well-being, Liverpool has sadly lapsed into polarized and counterproductive opposition between redevelopment and heritage to the understandable concern of UNESCO.”
Jonathan Brown, Director of Liverpool-based planning and tourism consultancy Share the City, said: “Karen Bradley needs to get a grip on her advisors before this little local difficultly becomes an international incident. The UK usually honours her international treaty obligations, but UNESCO have clearly run out of patience with government assurances backed only by inaction. The United Nations expects the world’s cultural treasures to be safe in our hands, and a breach of the treaty would be noted with sadness around the world.”
In July 2016 SAVE wrote to Karen Bradley MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, to voice our serious concerns at the ongoing state of conservation of Liverpool’s World Heritage Site, and called for immediate action to be taken to ensure the city is removed from the World Heritage in Danger list.