On Wednesday, UNESCO, the UN’s cultural agency, voted to take Liverpool’s waterfront off its list of world heritage sites. This was due to concerns over overdevelopment and plans for a new stadium. China presided over the committee discussions, where 13 delegates voted for the proposal while five voted against it. This is just one less than the two-thirds majority needed to remove a site from the international list.
Tian Xuejun (chair of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee) stated that “it means that the site Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City is removed from the World Heritage List.” After previous decisions that affected Oman and Germany, this is the third such removal.
Two days of discussions in committee saw delegates hear that the redevelopment plans (including high-rise buildings) would “irreversibly harm” the heritage of the historic port of northwest England.
According to the International Council on Monuments and Sites (UNESCO’s advisor on the heritage list), the UK government has been repeatedly requested to give stronger assurances regarding the future of the city.
The government approved the new stadium that the Everton football club planned without any public inquiry. It said it was “the most recent example” of a major project that was completely against UNESCO goals.
However, Caroline Dinenage, UK culture minister, told the committee that her government was committed to Liverpool’s preservation and that it would not be “a great loss” to delist.
Joanne Anderson, Liverpool’s new mayor, said that she was disappointed by the decision and would appeal.
Many countries supported the UK, believing it would be a radical step in the middle of the coronavirus epidemic. They also urged more time to elect a new city council in May.
The corruption scandal surrounding regeneration funding had overtaken the city’s leadership and forced the government to temporarily intervene before the May local elections in Britain.
Among those against Liverpool’s delisting was Australia, whose listing for the Great Barrier Reef is under threat in this year’s UNESCO deliberations.
Brazil, Hungary, and Nigeria were also opposed to the move, arguing that any further steps should be delayed for a year in order to allow the UK and Liverpool authorities more leeway.
Norway, on the other hand, led those who argued in favor, saying that although it was “painfully conscious” of conflicts between heritage conservation and development, it could achieve a “delicate equilibrium” which was not possible in Liverpool.
The World Heritage Label can be a boon to tourism and encourage governments to protect cultural and environmental treasures.
However, addition is not permanent. Sites can be removed from their status or warned that they are in danger.
After decades of decline, the waterfront and docks in Liverpool were listed by UNESCO on April 4, 2004.
It also witnessed the departure of millions upon millions of British and Irish emigrants to America and elsewhere. This history helped to create Liverpool’s unique character and spirit, according to UNESCO.
However, the UK government has been negotiating with the agency over the development of the area. This has included extensive restorations and new construction that UNESCO inspectors claim is in excess of the existing district.
It had asked the city to reduce building heights and to reconsider Everton’s proposed stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock. This was in response to the “significant loss of its authenticity and integrity”.
The statue honoring The Beatles’ four founding members is located on the waterfront. This landmark is also home to a monument.
Liverpool, an opposition stronghold, complained about the lack of support from Britain’s Conservative government.