Liverpool is shedding its UNESCO World Heritage Listing
(CNN) – It’s famous for its docks, the Beatles, and its two world-famous football teams – but now Liverpool is experiencing a different kind of notoriety.
The port city in northwest England – which built much of its fortune on slavery – was stripped of its coveted UNESCO World Heritage status after a global committee ruled that new developments in the city weighed too heavily on its fabric.
The decision was made by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, which is currently meeting in Fuzhou, China.
Previously, Liverpool was one of 53 sites on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger – a kind of watchlist that allows authorities to seek global solutions to preserve the heritage in danger.
It has been on the endangered list since 2012 after it was first added to the World Heritage List in 2004 – a status given to other major tourist destinations such as Machu Picchu in Peru, the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, and the Greek Acropolis.
UNESCO said in a statement that the city was “removed” from the list “due to the irreversible loss of attributes reflecting the property’s exceptional universal value.”
It called the development of Liverpool Waters – a decades-long planned renovation of the city’s famous docks – “detrimental to the authenticity and integrity of the place”.
The proposal of the development – which includes apartments, offices, shops and hotels in the old docks – was responsible for adding Liverpool to the list of countries at risk in 2012.
But the locals say it was also a critical project in creating local jobs.
A new stadium for the Everton football team proposed for the Bramley Moore Docks has also been identified by UNESCO as a factor in the deletion.
The Committee noted their “regrets” and wrote that the “State party has failed to comply with repeated requests by the Committee”.
Liverpool Mayor Joanne Anderson said she was “very disappointed and concerned” with the decision. She claimed that UNESCO had not fully assessed the city for “a decade” and called the decision “completely wrong”.
“Our World Heritage site has never been in better shape as it has benefited from hundreds of millions of pounds of investments in dozens of listed buildings and public spaces,” she added.
“We will work with the government to see if we can appeal, but whatever happens, Liverpool will always be a World Heritage City. We have a breathtaking waterfront and incredible architectural heritage that other cities will envy.
“Our commitment to maintaining and improving our buildings remains as strong as ever and will continue to be an important part of our efforts to attract visitors along with leisure, retail and events.”
“I find it incomprehensible that UNESCO would rather keep Bramley Moore Dock as a fallow wasteland than make a positive contribution to the future of the city and its people.”
Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, also condemned the move, calling it “a step backwards that does not reflect the reality of what is happening on the ground”.
“Places like Liverpool shouldn’t be faced with the binary choice of preserving cultural heritage status or regenerating abandoned communities – and the abundance of jobs and opportunities that come with it,” he said in a statement.
“Yes, there are some new developments, but the skyscraper forest that rang the alarm bells in the first place just didn’t come into being.
“UNESCO called for a moratorium on development in the city center. They were told that this was against UK planning law.
“Since we haven’t had a full UNESCO mission visit since 2011, invitations have been issued over the past ten years to overcome this impasse.”
UNESCO says the last visit was in 2015 – and that Isabelle Anatole Gabrielle, head of the World Heritage Center’s Europe and North America section, was also in 2017 for a meeting with city council representatives. Liverpool insists, however, that none of these “full” visits were.
After the Elbe valley in Dresden and the Arabian Oryz sanctuary in Oman, Liverpool is the third world heritage site to be removed from the list.
“Every deletion from the World Heritage List is a loss for the international community and for the internationally shared values and obligations under the World Heritage Convention,” UNESCO said in a statement.
The committee will consider adding global icons like Venice and the Great Barrier Reef to the In Danger list.