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What are the implications of stripping Liverpool of its World Heritage status?

  • by JW

What are attitudes to ‘heritage’?

What about the status of natural World Heritage Sites?



Today’s news from Liverpool has international significance:

UNESCO removes Liverpool from world heritage list – Thu, July 22 2021 – The Jakarta Post

Liverpool, World Heritage List: UK Says ‘Extremely Disappointed’ At UNESCO Liverpool Ruling |

UNESCO strips Liverpool of world heritage status | Arts and Culture News | Al Jazeera

Liverpool leader slams UNESCO as city loses World Heritage Status |

Why Unesco stripped English city of Liverpool of its world heritage status? | World News – Hindustan Times

Stripping of Liverpool’s UNESCO World Heritage status a ‘warning’ to Edinburgh, says heritage body | The Scotsman


The view from Liverpool is one of disappointment:

Liverpool is stripped of World Heritage Status – Liverpool Echo


The Guardian’s arcitecture correspondent Oliver Wainwright is scathing of what Liverpool has been doing to itself:

Liverpool has been vandalising its waterfront for a decade – it’s shocking Unesco didn’t act sooner

Losing world heritage status has shone a light on the city’s redevelopment from maritime metropolis to pound-shop Shanghai, plagued by allegations of bribery and corruption

“A certificate on the wall” is how Liverpool’s former mayor Joe Anderson used to describe the city’s Unesco world heritage status. The unbridled contempt he showed for his own city’s architectural heritage has now come to its logical conclusion: the certificate has ended up in the bin, along with the reputation of this once great maritime metropolis.

Unesco’s decision to strip Liverpool of its hallowed heritage status is hardly surprising – nor will it probably affect the buoyant city a great deal. Much of the public reaction so far has been a defiant shrug. But the real shock is that it took the international watchdog quite so long to act.

Over the past decade the Labour council has trampled its historic buildings with glee, pursuing needless demolition and rubber-stamping numerous atrocious developments, wreaking civic vandalism on an epic scale. When Anderson stepped aside in December, following his arrest on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation, which he strongly denies, he left a trail of misguided projects and half-finished building sites, monuments to mayoral hubris for which the city will pay the price for years to come.

Unesco’s principal concerns were the £5bn Liverpool Waters development, a 60-hectare jamboree of half-baked towers beginning to rise along the waterfront, and the now approved plans for Everton’s new £500m stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock. The UN agency said the plans had led to “serious deterioration and irreversible loss” to the area’s outstanding universal value, along with “significant loss to its authenticity and integrity”. But the rot runs much deeper than these two projects alone…

Liverpool has been vandalising its waterfront for a decade – it’s shocking Unesco didn’t act sooner | Architecture | The Guardian


Here’s a more determined view from the man behind Liverpool’s modern renaissance:

Liverpool will thrive without UNESCO, says Lord Heseltine – Liverpool Business News

His contemporary, former mayor of the city, is even more forthright:

Liverpool’s changing skyline defies UNESCO | The Economist


To finish, here’s a more thoughtful defence of ‘the modern’ at Liverpool’s waterside:

Liverpool should not be punished for its modern vision

The UK city has been stripped of its World Heritage status. Walter Aubrey Thomas, who designed some of its most famous buildings, would have objected, says his great-grandson

Thomas was nothing if not a Modernist. The Royal Liver Building is rightly iconic because of its character and traditional dominance of the dockside skyline—by far the most recognisable structure in any promotional image of the city.

But if its appearance is the city’s architectural talisman, it is just as important as one of the first multi-storey, reinforced concrete, steel-framed buildings in the world. The Ingalls Building in Cincinnati, Ohio, the first skyscraper built using this method, predates it by just five years.

Without such building methods, and architects as daring as Thomas in the UK and Julia Morgan in the US, modern cities like New York, with their high density office space and apartments, would not have emerged as soon as they did. These construction techniques allowed engineers and city planners to build higher, bringing more people, business and wealth into these cities, and with that wealth came culture. If the modern city is a living organism, its skeleton is steel-reinforced concrete…

Liverpool should not be punished for its modern vision | The Art Newspaper



But what about significant heritage sites beyond Liverpool?

Engage Liverpool, “a website for residents of Liverpool’s City Centre and Waterfront”, tries to look at the bigger picture:

We hope that a some point someone nationally will write a reflective article about the whole saga to see how we got here and understand the implications for other WHS across the UK and the potential negative impact upon Liverpool’s standing in the global community. The latter is a story we are unlikely to hear much about in Liverpool.

World Heritage Watch report sent to UNESCO – Engage Liverpool

Some decade ago, the Guardian reported on warnings from UNESCO:

This year, an independent report commissioned by English Heritage warned the waterfront could lose its world heritage status because of the development plans.

Liverpool’s world heritage status threatened by dockside development | Liverpool | The Guardian


Meanwhile, there has been a similar battle over the status of the Great Barrier Reef, a natural WHS:

UNESCO wants to categorize the Great Barrier Reef as endangered

Great Barrier Reef UNESCO ‘in danger’ ruling set to be delayed by Australia

Leading scientists praise UNESCO’s leadership after draft decision on Great Barrier Reef | Mirage News



Sidmouth sits in the middle of England’s only natural WHS – and it needs a beach management plan which will prevent major flooding of the town. Nevertheless, progress is being made – without having to compromise the Jurassic Coast’s standing.

With more news to come:

From the BMP Steering Group – Vision Group for Sidmouth


And whilst Sidmouth does not have the built heritage to compare with Liverpool’s waterfront, it does have the largest number of listed buildings in Devon, apart from Exeter – which needs to be cherished for all manner of reasons:

Celebrating Sidmouth’s heritage – Vision Group for Sidmouth

The importance of heritage to the local economy – Vision Group for Sidmouth

East Devon’s local heritage list – Vision Group for Sidmouth


The government has meanwhile promised more protection of heritage assets:

Heritage Protection for the 21st Century

Valuing culture and heritage capital: a framework towards informing decision making – GOV.UK


But what are the wider attitudes to ‘heritage’ which underpin any policies or actions?

Steps to Defining, Discovering, and Honouring Your Heritage – Flux Magazine

Why Our Attitude Towards Heritage Needs A Big Change?


photo: Liverpool Waterfront Investment – Free photo on Pixabay