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D-Day looms on the waterfront

Larry Neild on the threat to World Heritage Status as UNESCO comes back to town

Written by . Published on November 8th 2011.

D-Day looms on the waterfront

IN a matter of days, a high-level team of culture inspectors will arrive in Liverpool to decide if the city should be stripped of its coveted crown as a World Heritage Site.

It’s the second time Liverpool has faced this level of scrutiny from Unesco, the United Nations body overseeing WHS around the world.

Peel won’t be putting a spade in the ground until it knows it has end users for its developments

First time was over the developments around Mann Island and, in that case, the decision was made the schemes would not affect the World heritage Site, granted on the basis of Liverpool’s role as a world mercantile port.

Main_Image %281%29Liverpool WatersThis time going under the spotlight is the proposals by Peel Holdings to develop Liverpool Waters, an ambitious £5bn scheme to create a so-called Manhattan-on-the-Mersey skyline, creating 25,000 jobs.

Currently the Three Graces, centrepiece of the WHS, stand supreme as a focal point, a shining beacon pinpointing the famous Pier Head.

The thinking in some minds is the damaging impact of a line of high rise buildings along the waterfront from the north docks towards the heart of the city.

The big question will be can Liverpool be a dynamic, developing world city if it is constrained by being shackled, or anchored down by the glories of its Victorian heyday when Liverpool was the greatest seaport on the planet.

Liverpool campaigned for years to join an elite club that includes the great Egyptian pyramids, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.

Just one European city has been stripped of its WHS title in the history of the cultural ‘oscar’ scheme, the German city of Dresden, and that was only the second time in al most 40 years a title has been removed. The first site to be removed was in Oman.

And the run-up to Dresden’s removal from the elite list may well provide comfort for Liverpool. If the Unesco team rules Liverpool Waters is no threat to the WHS gong, then many people will breathe a sigh of relief. Others, of course will take the opposite view.

Mann-Island-July-2010-2This was OKIf on the other hand Unesco rule Peel’s proposals will pose a threat it will trigger a process lasting perhaps many years.

In Dresden case the decision hinged on the building of a modern bridge across a protected WHS, the Elbe Valley. The 12-mile long stretch include baroque palaces, churches, opera houses and museums.

Only when the bridge was constructed did Germany’s most bombed city lose its crown. Passing plans and proposals does not mean Liverpool will ever rival Manhattan. Liverpool Waters is an aspirational, long term development, spanning half a century or more.

Peel won’t be putting a spade in the ground until it knows it has end users for its developments.

More likely, if Unesco does not approve of Peel’s current plans, it will be the equivalent of a yellow card, placing Liverpool on the at-risk register. The big battle will be fought another day.

Surely though even a yellow card is something of a rap on the knuckles and ought to be avoided. Wouldn’t it show Liverpool doesn’t take its WHS honour as seriously as it should?

A Unesco monitoring team is due in the city next week for several days and will report to a critical committee meeting in December when Liverpool will learn of its likely fate as a World Heritage City.


Site stats

The UN established an official mechanism to protect and preserve World Heritage Sites in 1972. Currently there are 936 sites.

The UK has 28 sites, including Liverpool.

Italy has 47 WHS sites, more than any other country.

Host countries are expected to protect and preserve sites.


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

Alan Hird shared this on Facebook on November 8th 2011.
Pierre HeadNovember 11th 2011.

The Indy has gone big today on Liverpool’s WHS battle with a double-page spread. It’s even blurbed on their internet site home page....Is Liverpool’s world heritage status in ruins?

The article quotes Frank McKenna of Downtown Liverpool saying we should ditch world heritage status "if it gets in the way of rebuilding our economy and our previous reliance on public sector grants and handouts. If the price of that vanity badge is wrecking the Peel plans, we should pay it. The vanity badge, from what I can tell, has brought little, if any, benefit."

Funny how places all over the world are desperate for a WHS badge. Indeed negotiating ours took some years. McKenna’s comments show what a village mentality we have in what no doubt Frank would love to call Liverpeel.

I’d say if Peel wan’t to take their ball home (to Manchester) because they want their own village, then let them.

This city vowed to care for and protect its heritage when we were inscribed onto the unique WHS list. That doesn’t mean we cannot develop the city, but it means we have to act like a responsible World Heritage City.

Sadly McKenna’s Gold is just fools gold.

Paige TurnerNovember 11th 2011.

Hear hear! Apart from a lot of low-paid, part-time service-industry jobs sweeping up, serving in shops and cleaning toilets, the private sector has done little for liverpool's economy.
Peel continues to sit on its assets waiting for the market to pick up while tens of thousands subsist on benefits even when they have work because their pay is so low and the property barons raise rents on a whim to unaffordable levels.
If Peel really gives a toss about Liverpool, it could pay back the European money (with loose change in its pockets) clearing the way for a proper cruise liner terminal on the Mersey. A World Heritage Site would automatically put Liverpool on the cruise itineraries.

James SpencerNovember 11th 2011.

well when I was in 'pool a Sunday or two ago I looked at the coffins (the apartments shown in the picture) and the double head concrete snake of the museum (oh dear) and then glanced across the road at the rapidly increasing office developments, the arena etc before escaping to the calm of Albert Dock (bars and apartments and the odd museum. I wandered back to the Station though the shopping arcades popped into St James Market centre and then the really useful shops on the way to the coach station. I wondered why Manchester was not more like this.

The place for Peel's development is in the middle of the Mersey down river a bit, and in real life it will end looking up like Media City 'UK' compared with the fantasy of its aspirations.

AnonymousNovember 22nd 2011.

So now Wayne Colquhoun has stepped in and all bets could be off. What was the point of that, Wayne?

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