Monday 19th July and no decision on Liverpool has been reached by the World Heritage Committee at their Extraordinary 44th Session held remotely and live-streamed. Today Norway asked for a secret ballot which means a delay until Wednesday as these have to be personally delivered to the UNESCO HQ in Paris. Why do you think that happened?! Engage is most grateful to Stephan Dompke of World Heritage Watch for re-drafting our statement from yesterday and sending it to all UNESCO ambassadors last night for them to read before the debate this morning. We reckon the decision is likely to be against deletion this year. It is attached below:
Today Sunday 18th July 2021 is the day when the UNESCO World Heritage Committee will discuss Liverpool’s status as a WHS. The following statement has been delivered to UNESCO and we hope it will be delivered by Stephan Dompke Chair of Wold Heritage Watch with whom Engage has worked for many years now. The statement was put together by Engage and Save Waterloo Dock Neighbourhood Association working very closely with David Wertheim. You can read it below:
Further articles have been published today as the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meets to deliberate Liverpool’s deletion as a WHS in it’s deliberations. It is expected that Liverpool’s agenda item will come before the Ambassadors on Sunday 18th July from 12.30 – 2.00pm. The UK Government have instructed MP Caroline Dinenage the Minister for Health to speak on it’s behalf. The event will be live-streamed and can be watched here: UNESCO Live-streaming A decision is expected Sunday afternoon.
Press statements have been released today by the following:
SAVE Britain’s Heritage: Urges Ministers to avoid UK treaty breach over Liverpool 16.07.21
World Heritage UK: Liverpool Statement 16.07.21
Liverpool City Council: Document prepared for UNESCO Ambassadors
World Heritage Watch: Press Release (below) 16.07.21
Governments Must Take Their Commitment to the World Heritage More Seriously
As the annual session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee begins today, World Heritage Watch calls on the member states of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention to take more seriously their obligation to protect and preserve the sites in their care.
“More and more World Heritage sites are threatened by large investor and infrastructure projects that have been approved or even initiated by governments themselves,” complains Stephan Dömpke, the chairman of the organization. “Examples of this are the two sites that could be removed from the World Heritage List this year: a new football stadium in the architectural heritage of the Maritime Mercantile City of Liverpool with its docklands, and a huge dam in Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve, the largest in all of Africa.”
For a further seven sites – including Budapest and Venice – the draft decision before the Committee envisages inscription in the List of World Heritage in Danger (so-called “red list”). In all cases it is about long-term negligence or new projects by governments, as a result of which the “outstanding universal value” of the site threatens to be irretrievably lost.
In addition, UNESCO complains in 69 of 202 draft decisions – a full third! – that governments have not submitted projects for review before they have been decided, as they are obliged to do under the rules of the Convention.
“Instead of taking enough time to talk about the condition of the existing World Heritage sites and to find sustainable solutions to their problems, the World Heritage Committee will again take four days to decide about the inscription of another 45 (!) Sites on the World Heritage List“, explains Doempke. “Many member states seem to have a greater interest in the prestige and tourism promotion that come with new sites, than in preserving the protected assets entrusted to them.”
For its 50th anniversary, which is due next year, the world heritage system must be readjusted and priorities reset – away from the inscription of more and more new sites and towards the sustainable preservation and development of the existing ones. The global public and global civil society have the task of reminding governments that political, commercial, and often enough corrupt, interests must find their limits in world heritage sites. A renewed commitment by the international community to the protection of our common heritage is not only indispensable for its preservation, but would also be an important contribution to multilateralism.
Stephan Doempke is the founding chairman of World Heritage Watch, a global civil society network advocating for the protection of the UNESCO World Heritage of which Engage is a member.
UNESCO have now published their reasons for recommending that Liverpool should be deleted as a World Heritage Site this summer, next month in fact, at the 44th Session of the World Heritage Committee held under the chairmanship of China. The final decision to delete or not will be made by a vote of the UNESCO ambassadors from 21 countries democratically elected at the General Assembly.
This is what Engage has been predicting was the most likely outcome and in fact the official Agenda item makes clear the reasons for calling for deletion are to do mostly with the State Party (UK Government) who has proved themselves incapable of protecting the Outstanding Universal Value of the property in the face of an unacceptable level and type of development in Liverpool Waters.
It has nothing to do with regeneration and development versus heritage and conservation or treating the city like a museum but it has everything to do with the type of development being proposed and built in Liverpool. The main difference between the two parties is UNESCO wanted Liverpool to have a unique style of regeneration and redevelopment working within the guidelines laid down in every WHS for sustainable development. So little had been done in the city to inform citizens about how the city can regenerate whilst still remaining a UNESCO site that Engage in 2018 brought 3 WHS cities that were also port cities and with development opportunities in their redundant dock spaces to show how none of them had any issues with UNESCO’s guidelines.
In fact we learnt that each one was developing their dock areas in a way that enhanced the quality of the built environment and with good quality architecture as well. The seminar series was called WHS Cities of Inspiration and brought Strasbourg, Bordeaux and Hamburg to Liverpool to find out how they did it. Sadly of course the main players in the city were not interested at all in learning from their example. But we tried. It is a shame that you continue to see on social media many binary comments pitting development against heritage. We can have both and many places do. The city’s leaders wanted to build what they liked, where they liked, how they liked and resented anyone suggesting there were no obstacles to regeneration within the already mutually approved and agreed guidelines.
You can read the Provisional Agenda for the 44th Session of the UNESCO WHC HERE. You will find Liverpool at Item 34 on pp 52 – 58. It clearly and extensively states what has happened, all the opportunities over the past 9 years that Liverpool and the UK Government have had and the profound regret that UNESCO has in reaching their recommendation.
Main highlights are copied below:
- Over the period since the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger, the State Party has been provided with consistent advice through Committee Decisions, missions and technical reviews. The State Party has not complied with the advice and repeated requests of the World Heritage Committee. It has neither developed a tool and framework document in the form of a DSOCR and corrective measures, which defines the state of conservation that a property must reach in order to demonstrate that it is no longer threatened by ascertained or potential serious and specific danger and would enable its removal from the List of World Heritage in Danger, nor demonstrated either adequate commitment to limit the quantity, location and size of allowable built form, nor put mechanisms in place to prevent the implementation of the ‘Liverpool Waters’ scheme and other construction projects in the property and its buffer zone from having a major negative impact on the OUV of the property. Furthermore, the new North Shore Vision incorporates both implementation of the ‘Liverpool Waters’ scheme and the recently-approved stadium on the site of the historic Bramley-Moore Dock. The necessary corrective measures have not been taken in conformity with Paragraph 191(a) of the Operational Guidelines. Moreover, the State Party itself has unequivocally confirmed on multiple occasions that with regard to its obligations to comply with the national and local planning framework, it has no ability to put in place the requested moratorium for new building projects, nor to stop nor to significantly change the approved OPC for the ‘Liverpool Waters’ scheme. This indicates that there are no legal and instrumental means available in the governance of the property that would allow the State Party to protect the OUV of the property.
- Notes with deep regret that inadequate governance processes, mechanisms, and regulations for new developments in and around the World Heritage property, have resulted in serious deterioration and irreversible loss of attributes conveying the OUV of the property along with significant loss to its authenticity and integrity, that the process of further deterioration is irreversible, and that the State Party has not fulfilled its obligations defined in the Convention with respect to protecting and conserving the OUV, as inscribed, of the World Heritage property of Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City; 7.
- Also notes with deep regret that as a result of approved and implemented development projects, the property has deteriorated to the extent that it has lost characteristics, which State of conservation of the properties WHC/21/44.COM/7A.Add, p. 58 inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger determined its inclusion in the World Heritage List, in conformity with Paragraph 192(a) of the Operational Guidelines and that the necessary corrective measures have not been taken in conformity with Paragraph 193 of the Operational Guidelines
Members of the Liverpool World Heritage Site Steering Group led a city-wide and national media strategy earlier last week to put Liverpool’s case that UNESCO is in the wrong in not understanding Liverpool’s predicament and that we had no option but to follow the need for regeneration and development at the expense of the Outstanding Universal Value of the heritage in the WHS. The majority view supports this position. Engage’s view is that almost from the beginning of the Labour administration in 2010, remembering that it was the previous LibDem Council in 2004 that achieved the UNESCO WHS listing, never valued it or understood it and so only 2yrs later UNESCO sounded the alarm in 2012 and neither Liverpool City Council nor the UK Government took sufficient steps to remove the threat from the city.
Original article: 01.07.21
LCC CHIEF EXECUTIVE Tony Reeves and LCC ELECTED MAYOR Joanne Anderson have stated that they are hopeful that the State Party (UK Government) will submit an amendment to the UNESCO report requesting the WHC Meeting to give Liverpool 12months more to arrange for visits to the city and to convince ambassadors rather than officials that Liverpool has no choice but to pursue regeneration in the north end of the city but should be able to retain it’s WHS status at the same time. The local feeling is that we ought to be able to have both regeneration and heritage and that it is UNESCO’s officials with a narrow interpretation of their regulations that have brought us to this situation.
- Business Live: Hope for Liverpool’s World Heritage Status as Council asks UNESCO for more time 29.06.21
- Place North West: Kick-Off date confirmed for £500m Everton stadium 01.07.21
RECENT MEDIA REPORTS:
- Place North West: UNESCO: Liverpool Waters has eroded integrity of WHS 22.06.21
- The Guide: Liverpool reacts to news that World Heritage status could be deleted 22.06.21
- The Guardian: UNESCO says Liverpool waterfront should lose heritage status 21.06.21
- SkyNews: Liverpool’s world heritage status under threat over Northern Docklands plans 21.06.21
- iNews: Liverpool on the brink of losing WHS status as UNESCO recommends deletion over developments 21.06.21
- BBC News: UNESCO report says Liverpool should lose World Heritage status 21.06.21
- Echo: Official recommendation made to strip Liverpool of World Heritage status 21.06.21
- Liverpool Express: New report outlines £1.5bn boost to WHS 21.06.21
- The Guardian: Liverpool in fight to save waterfront’s heritage status 19.06.21
- Echo: Liverpool responds as city on brink of losing World Heritage status 19.06.21
- University of Liverpool News: Prof Michael Parkinson Liverpool, UNESCO & WHS status – what next? 21.06.21
- Liverpool Business News: Exclusive: Liverpool set to lose World Heritage status 17.06.21
An excellent and balanced article published in Place North West: The Subplot 06.07.21 :
Driving the week
The Unesco World Heritage Committee meets in Fuzhou, China, from 16 to 31 July to discuss, among other things, the current state of repair of its list of World Heritage Sites. Liverpool’s status has a big question mark over it, thanks to a report that you can read here.
Liverpool’s 326-acre waterfront won World Heritage Site status in 2004 but for more than half of the time since Unesco has regarded its heritage as in danger. This is thanks to developer Peel L&P’s Liverpool Waters scheme. Peel’s original “Shanghai”-style skyscraper proposals have dropped out of public view (and perhaps viability) but the latest proposals for an Everton FC stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock represent a live threat, Unesco thinks.
Could do better
The gist of Unesco’s complaint is that while Liverpool is thrilled about having the status, it has no adequate process to protect it. It is also missing a lot of the baseline research which would allow you to judge new proposals. “Lack of overall management of new developments…Lack of analysis and description of the townscape characteristics relevant to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and important views related to the property and its buffer zone… Lack of established maximum heights for new developments along the waterfront and for the backdrops of the World Heritage property,” says the report.
The Bramley-Moore dock proposal is the last straw. The report concludes there has been “…serious deterioration and loss of attributes that convey the [outstanding universal value] of the property to the extent that it has lost characteristics which determined its inclusion in the World Heritage List,” and proposes it be struck out.
You say potato
The dispute boils down to two groups talking at cross purposes. Unesco wants a piece of paper that shows, with appropriate rules and sanctions, how Liverpool will protect its World Heritage asset. Instead, Unesco complains that the city keeps producing pieces of paper that show how parts of the city will be redeveloped. That’s not a wrong aim: it is just not what Unesco asked to see. Unesco says the focus of the ‘2020 North Shore Vision’ produced by the city council and its partners last year “is not on protecting [the waterfront] but rather on outlining [the] integrated development approach for an area of the city that is in need of social and economic realignment…This indicates that there are no legal and instrumental means available in the governance of the property that would allow the State Party to protect the [outstanding value] of the property,” the report says.
I say tomato
From the other side, the defence points to the existing 2017-2024 management plan, and insists that the city has in any case invested heavily in protecting heritage assets since 2004. Docks have often been filled in, and for good reason. Economic outputs matter, too, and Bramley-Moore Dock has long been isolated and crying out for redevelopment. It represents about a sixth of the heritage site under discussion, and offers high returns. Meanwhile, turning down schemes like plans for a hotel at Waterloo Road, which were rejected precisely because it threatened the world heritage site, proves the city is serious. You could call this pragmatism.
To Unesco, a response like that simply proves their point. They watch waterfront proposals come and go, and note the pragmatic balancing act. Would they be right to suspect that the best protection for the waterfront is not council policy, but the relative lack of viable proposals that might damage it (see the now defunct Shanghai plan)? Some senior Liverpool commentators seem to acknowledge the point and, privately, so do many in the property industry. And thus we reach the impasse Liverpool has been in since 2012.
Andy Delaney, head of the Liverpool office of regeneration consultancy Aspinall Verdi hopes a pragmatic solution can be found that keeps both sides happy. Ian Steele, principal at Avison Young, agrees. “Removal of World Heritage status would be a terrible loss to the city,” he says. Practically everyone in Liverpool politics wants a compromise, but it is not clear what they are prepared to give up to get it: certainly not the stadium.
Conclusion: Everything of value comes with a cost, a cost you only feel when it clashes with another thing you also value. At which point you have to make a decision about which you value most. Unesco has made its choice. The city council has asked Unesco for more time to consider, but with work on site at the Everton stadium beginning this month, it begins to look like Liverpool has, too.