Liverpool moves step closer to losing World Heritage Status amid concerns over waterfront developments

Liverpool's world-famous waterfront Credit: Liverpool Echo

Liverpool is a step closer to being stripped of its world heritage status.

The United Nations' Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) put the city's waterfront on its list of World Heritage sites 17 years ago but a number of developments, including Everton's proposed new stadium, have put it at risk.

Its World Heritage Committee is now recommending the site be deleted from the list. The decision could be ratified in a vote in China next month.

The recommendation says: "Despite some successful projects aiming to protect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property through adaptive reuse of buildings mostly in the historic centre of Liverpool, within the property and its buffer zone, the inevitable process for the implementation of the Liverpool Waters project and other large scale infrastructure projects in the waterfront and northern dock area of the property and its buffer zone have progressively eroded the integrity of the property and continue to do so as the most recent project proposals and approvals indicate."

A vision for Liverpool Waters - but is it at odds with the city's heritage? Credit: Peel Holdings

Council leaders have questioned the recommendation, asking for a delay and for UNESCO to visit Liverpool themselves.

City Mayor Joanne Anderson said: "We will be sending the report to the committee members and I hope it will make them think twice about removing Liverpool from its list of World Heritage Sites. The city council is under new political leadership, with a new emphasis on social value when it comes to development.

"We want to engage with the committee members and invite them to fully appraise all that has been achieved since the committee last met in 2019, and to review all that the council is seeking to achieve in the next 12 months."

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor for the Liverpool City Region, called the recommendation "disappointing."

The city - with its landmark Three Graces of the Liver Building, Cunard Building and Port of Liverpool Building - was granted the highly sought-after status in 2004.

The accolade recognises the city's history as a major trading centre during the British Empire and its architectural landmarks and places Liverpool alongside world famous attractions like the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal.

But Liverpool has found itself under threat of having the status removed because of Peel Land and Property's £5bn Liverpool Waters development in the city's north docks.

Credit: Everton Football Club

More recently, the heritage body has expressed concerns about Everton's now approved plans for a new £500m stadium at Bramley Moore Dock within the Liverpool Waters site.

The main issue raised regarding the stadium plan is the infilling of a Victorian dock - although the club has repeatedly stressed the lengths it has gone to within its plans to respect, restore and value heritage at the site.

Chris Capes, Director of Development for Peel L&P’s Liverpool Waters, said on Saturday that regeneration and the protection of Liverpool’s heritage can happen together.

He said, "The regeneration of the city’s northern docklands is critical to boosting the local economy and provides a unique opportunity to ‘build back better’ and support the city’s Covid-19 recovery plan.

"We recognise the importance of protecting key heritage assets and we have listened and responded to concerns raised, with key buildings removed from the plans and heights of proposed developments reduced."

The Liverpool skyline from across the River Mersey Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Archive/PA Images

Cllr Richard Kemp, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group on Liverpool City Council, said the authority and the government should be "ashamed".

He called on Mayor Joanne Anderson to review the city's heritage strategy and be tougher on planning applications.

He said, "This is important to us as a city. People come to live, visit and invest in a city for many reasons. They want to see their football team lose, they want to take part in cultural events, they want to take advantage of our great quality of life. Key to these decisions short or long term is a desire to come to a great and unique place."