Our World Heritage status has gone, floating out of sight like a chippy wrapper from the Lobster Pot. But it's not about them anymore. It's about us.
Brilliant observation! All this talk that UNESCO should come here and see for themselves... How many of the people saying this, have even had a look at what the status meant or any of the other places designated?
The city and (more importantly the state) had years to turn this around and did nothing but bicker and campaign to shape the narrative of a victim inwardly, hoping all red tape would finally disappear.
As Britain turned its back on Europe, Liverpool gave the finger to the world. It's a shame.
UNESCO decision on Liverpool: A Wake Up Call?
‘In July 2021 the UNESCO World Heritage Committee will meet to consider the potential deletion of Liverpool from the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In our judgement its removal would be damaging for Liverpool…’
I agree. They met. Liverpool was struck through.
Liverpool has now joined the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman and Dresden Elbe Valley in Germany as the third site in the world to lose World Heritage Status. There are over a thousand World Heritage Sites globally and now 31 in the UK. Liverpool has been relegated whereas the city of Bath, the old and new towns of Edinburgh and the English Lake District continue to be listed alongside many other amazing locations.
I like the design of the proposed new Everton football stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock. I also think that the Museum of Liverpool compliments the Three Graces and Pier Head area, as did UNESCO – partly - back in 2006 when they wrote ‘the design had taken into account the sensitivity of its location, as set out in the architectural design brief’.
However, I think it is important to point out that although one of UNESCO’s concerns since 2012 has been the prospect of tall buildings in the Liverpool Waters (as pointed out in the Liverpool World Heritage Taskforce recent response), it has not been their only worry.
In 2008, in their ‘state of conservation report’, the factors affecting Liverpool’s World Heritage areas included ‘lack of strategic plans for future development that set out clear strategies for the overall townscape and for the skyline and river front taking into account the townscape characteristics and important views related to the property and its buffer zone’.
This quote from thirteen years ago seems familiar. Alongside other potentially negative factors, this exact concern was repeated in their reports of 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Furthermore, in 2016, the UNESCO state of conservation report for Liverpool includes the concern: ‘lack of adequate management system/management plan’. This is repeated in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
This reminded me of something I read quite recently. It wasn’t too long ago that the Caller Report was published (March 2021). Are similar failures in Liverpool City Council’s approaches and processes present in those pages?
In Max Caller’s Report, referring to the Regeneration Directorate, he writes ‘The Inspection Team heard from a number of sources that in the early part of the Review Period, corporate management and oversight was sketchy and in Regeneration itself, no divisional management or team meetings took place. Many individuals described the style in Regeneration as intimidating. Little instruction or direction was committed to writing. Instructions were given to undertake specific elements of a task to ensure that the total picture was not evident.’
In the summary of findings and actions already taken (March 2021), what was assessed as in need of addressing at Liverpool City Council included: ‘The Property Asset Management service lacked senior direction and support to use property assets strategically to deliver sustainable regeneration projects in support of the corporate objectives of the council, and played a low level role in property transactions. Property disposals followed a “depressingly familiar pattern” where the interests of the council were not always protected.’
Yet what was found to be good included ‘councillors of all parties who encapsulate the best traditions of local democracy, working for their residents and striving to deliver the best possible outcomes for people and place’. I am sure this dedication and focus will continue – both outside and inside Liverpool City Council - as we residents of Liverpool take an honest look at ourselves and see both what we do well and where we can do better.
I love many of the buildings and culture prevalent in Liverpool, but I do find the many boxes of glass and metal with little to encourage community activity at street level poorly thought through and lacking in humanity. Many aspects of our city that are not our prestigious historic buildings look messy and incoherent at the moment. Let's address this now that one of our positive labels is missing. Yes, Liverpool needs to develop and move forward, but a little reflection may not go amiss, particularly from those who have strategic influence, including us all.
The quote at the beginning was written by the Liverpool World Heritage Site Task Force in May 2021.
In July 2021 and tomorrow and tomorrow, let's repair and build on something to cherish.
Ali Harwood 22.7.21