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Liverpool put on World Heritage danger list

Peel's north docks plan proves too much for UNESCO

Published on June 26th 2012.

Liverpool put on World Heritage danger list

UNESCO has today placed Liverpool on the List of World Heritage in Danger sites due to the proposed construction of Liverpool Waters. 

Its World Heritage Committee, meeting in St Petersburg, contended that the massive Peel development, on the north docks, would extend the city centre significantly and alter the skyline and profile of the site which was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2004. 

Furthermore, its experts argued that the redevelopment scheme would fragment and isolate the different dock areas visually. 

The committee warned that if the project is implemented, Liverpool may entirely lose the outstanding universal value for which it was given World Heritage status. 

WorldheritagesiteThe vision back in 2004 that enamoured World Heritage inspectors

The Peel Waters plan was roundly condemned, last month, by The Observer's architecture writer, Rowan Moore, who described it as “Shanghai-lite” and suggested that the was merely a way of Peel upping the value of its derelict north docks land. 

And while nobody disagrees that the north docks is in desperate need of a long-term fix, Moore is not the only critic to describe it as a "very average commercial development". 

The city was in danger of being dubbed “Liverpeel”, warned elected mayor contender Liam Fogarty, who waded into the controversy earlier this year, while English Heritage and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) have long railed against aspects of the scheme. 

Nevertheless, the council approved planning permission in March and Mayor Joe Anderson is adamant that the scheme will bring in £5.5bn of investment and create 17,000 jobs over the next 40 years. 

Liverpool-World-HeritagePeel have threatened to walk away from the scheme if it does not get planning approval, which some commentators have perceived as holding the city to ransom. Others have worried that the developer, which also owns the Port of Liverpool and Salford Quays, has provided no evidence that the predicted thousands of jobs will materialise. 

Currently, Local Government Minister Eric Pickles is waiting to receive the civic paperwork before he makes a decision on whether a public inquiry is necessary. 

The WHS site - which includes six areas in the city centre including St George’s Plateau, the commercial district, Ropewalks and cultural quarter, along with the waterfront and docklands - is, says UNESCO, a testimony to the development of Liverpool as one of the world’s major trading centres in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Liverpool WatersThe plan

Liverpool's WHS, says UNESCO, “bears witness to the important role of the city in the growth of the British Empire as a major port for the mass movement of people, e.g. slaves and emigrants from northern Europe to America. Liverpool was a pioneer in the development of modern dock technology, transport systems and port management and the site features a great number of significant commercial, civic and public buildings.” 

Mayor Anderson insists it is possible to have both – a World Heritage Site next to a “world-class development”.

The Laz Word: 'Removal may be seen as badge of shame'

So Liverpool is plonked firmly on the cultural naughty step and is likely to stay there for some years, writes Larry Neild. 

There are just under 1,000 World Heritage Sites and only a handful face the wrath of UNESCO committee who oversee the global list. 

PicklesPicklesYes, Liverpool desperately needs jobs and opportunities, but as I have always predicted, UNESCO won't remove Liverpool from the list until developments happen that harm the universal value of the WHS.

Alternatively Peel Holdings could scrap its plans altogether and that would remove the danger. 

A third, most unlikely, outcome could be UNESCO, Peel and the city council all coming to an agreement that allows development to take place whilst keeping it's status alongside the likes of the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids.

Mayor Joe AndersonMayor  AndersonThe big question will now be the response of Eric Pickles. 

He will have to decide the fate of the Liverpool Waters plan and he won't be able to ignore the UNESCO threat. Indeed World Heritage Status is given to the State Party, ie the UK National Government – not Liverpool City Council or any Merseyside based quango. 

While it may make economic and regeneration sense for local decision makers to back Peel's plans, it will be interesting to see the reaction of bodies like English Heritage and the Government Department for Culture Media and Sport. 

The badge is regarded as the most prestigious internationally-recognised heritage honour, providing its sites with the opportunity to promote this unique status, increase civic pride and attract more cultural tourism.

Removal of Liverpool from the WHS list may well be seen in London as a badge of shame. 

Further reading here 

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29 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Chris DoyleJune 26th 2012.

I welcome this

Chris BakerJune 26th 2012.

Heritage are dicks

Louise McBrideJune 26th 2012.

It will be amazing if it comes off

Chris BakerJune 26th 2012.

I'm sure the red tape f*ckers will spoil it

Gillo BallybayJune 26th 2012.

Liverpool is very short sighted if they think this isnt important. Peel is a botch up job, promising stuff they wont deliver.

scouse690June 26th 2012.

Peel won't "scrap it's plans and walk away"! They've invested millions into the planning already...Let's keep our World Heritage status!! It's for Peel to work around our WH status, not for us to submit to their threats. North Liverpool docklands are a potential gold mine for Peel, LET THEM WALK AWAY, our WH status is more important than they are.
They are holding this City to ransom, with idle threats, instead of working with UNESCO to find a suitable solution.
Call "Peels' bluff"...they'll fill their pants!!

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 29th 2012.

Right on!

Absinthe & TurksJune 27th 2012.

Laz sez "Yes, Liverpool desperately needs jobs and opportunities".

Indeed it does. So it definitely does not need a lot of empty office blocks and vacant blocks of flats.

Peel has said this is to take place over the next thirty years, but with energy prices rising steeply already, will these high-rise blocks be economically viable anyway?
Tower blocks use enormous amounts of energy just to keep the insides ventilated and at a comfortable temperature. They only make any sense at all in areas where the land prices are astronomically expensive such as very rich cities: New York, Moscow, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong etc. Even the hyperbolically-blethering Echo could not pretend Liverpool was in that league.

Peel's plan looks like a herd of white elephants.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
John JayJune 27th 2012.

Defeatist claptrap - of the kind that has led Liverpool to the sorry state it is right now...! World Heritage can wait...!! The only ones who'll be laughing if Liverpool FAILS to build all those magnificent skyscrapers along its waterfront will be Mancunians...!!!

Absinthe & TurksJune 27th 2012.

"Magnificent skyscrapers" eh?

Liverpool already has more empty office space and unsold, unlet flats than it will need for the next fifty years.

What we need is something that produces something, makes money and employs people, not rubbish that makes the developer a fat instant profit and leaves a useless blot on the skyline until it is pulled/falls down.

PhilJune 27th 2012.

Exactly how much 'cultural tourism' goes on at the docks anyway.....

Michael BreslinJune 27th 2012.

If we lose the World Heritage Site, nothing at the Pier Head will change, the tourists will keep on coming and the cruise ships will continue to dock. No, the heritage label is NOT a neccessity but re-development of the wasteland that is the north docks and the jobs that it will bring is.

AnonymousJune 27th 2012.

Contradictory Stuff. Peel building on an horrendous, abandoned site is bad because it destroys the uniquely valuable derelict nature of the north docks part of the WHS. However, it is also bad because it Liverpool Waters is a white elephant that peel will not build. If the latter is true, this is nothing to worry about because the WHS will stay in its current rejected state.

Michael BreslinJune 27th 2012.

Annonymous are you having a laugh? Would you like UNESCO to declare the proposed site of Liverpool Waters a heritage site? If so, nothing would ever get built there and we would have to demolish the new ugly buildings at Princes Dock because they would be sandwiched between the Three Graces and a "site of unique derelict nature".

Absinthe & TurksJune 27th 2012.

I can feel a Private Eye 'lookalike' coming on...

Chris RyanJune 27th 2012.

They want to build a landing site for a Sontaran invasion fleet.

Robert GreenwichJune 28th 2012.

Sounds like a banana peel

Paul WardJune 29th 2012.

Peel's schematic looks like they went into Anne Summers, bought all the white dildos and plonked them on a map. I think we can all suggest a better place to put them.

Michael BreslinJune 30th 2012.

The local heritage lobby say they are against the Liverpool Waters scheme because the planned buildings will be too tall. The question that should therefore be asked is why don't they commission an architect to come up with some designs that might satify both Peel and UNESCO? The answer will undoubtedly be that their job is merely to object to anything they don't like - not to come up with alternatives!

Reader XxxJune 30th 2012.

I hadn't seen the Peel schematic (if that is what it is csalled) before and I must say that it looks pretty - pretty inappropriate. What is the point of so many high-rise buildings? I am not at all convinced that this is the right development for that part of the Liverpool city region and I would very much like someone very senior from Peel Holdings - perhaps "Mr Peel" himself - to try to convince me otherwise. A debate on Radio Merseyside would be a good way to start the ball rolling.

Mr Whittaker to youJune 30th 2012.

He doesn't need to convince you, it's not up to you and it's his land

AnonymousJune 30th 2012.

Michael, they don't commission an architect to come up with an alternative because it's not going to happen!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Michael BreslinJuly 1st 2012.

It is obvious that you are against any sort of development in the area north of the Pier Head, preferring derelict buildings and weed-covered wasteland instead. This is actually at odds with the heritage lobby, who are not objecting to development but to the proposed high-rise buildings. Perhaps you would like to see the demolition of those new buildings around Princes Dock?

CobbydalerJune 30th 2012.

Pickles & Anderson? Bet you never see them together...

AnonymousJuly 1st 2012.

Funny layout!

Dick ShunneryJuly 1st 2012.


2 Responses: Reply To This...
Helena HandcartJuly 1st 2012.

According to the OED this is an adjective.

Dick ShunneryJuly 2nd 2012.

The word they were grasping for but it was beyond their reach is 'diagram'.

M. PirestateJuly 1st 2012.

If the area north of the Pier Head cannot support such simple and necessary things as corner shops and pubs, how on earth is it going to support a forest of skyscrapers full of expensive offices and flats?

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