Why has Liverpool been stripped of its UNESCO World Heritage Status?

Liverpool has been removed from the World Heritage List after a UN committee found developments including the new Everton FC stadium threatened the the city’s waterfront.

Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 12:14 pm

The city was named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in 2004, joining places including the Taj Mahal, Egypt’s Pyramids and Edinburgh’s city centre.

But on Wednesday, following a secret ballot, the World Heritage Committee voted to remove Liverpool from the list, in a decision described as “incomprehensible” by mayor Joanne Anderson.

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What went wrong for Liverpool?

The committee, made up of representatives of 21 countries, was asked to make the decision after a report said “inadequate governance processes, mechanisms, and regulations for new developments in and around the World Heritage property” resulted in “serious deterioration and irreversible loss of attributes”.

Members had been unable to reach a consensus view and delegates from Norway proposed a secret ballot be held on the issue.

Announcing the decision on Wednesday, committee chairman Tian Xuejun said 20 votes had been cast.

Liverpool has been booted off the prestigious list of World Heritage sites which also includes Edinburgh, the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramid in Cairo.

Thirteen had been in favour of deleting the city, five had been against the proposal and two ballot papers had been invalid.

How Liverpool reacted to UNESCO decision

Mayor Anderson said: “I’m hugely disappointed and concerned by this decision to delete Liverpool’s World Heritage status, which comes a decade after Unesco last visited the city to see it with their own eyes.

“Our World Heritage site has never been in better condition having benefitted from hundreds of millions of pounds of investment across dozens of listed buildings and the public realm.

The cruise ship Celebrity Silhouette docked on the waterfront in Liverpool, which has been deleted from the World Heritage List. Peter Byrne/PA Wire

“We will be working with Government to examine whether we can appeal but, whatever happens, Liverpool will always be a World Heritage city. We have a stunning waterfront and incredible built heritage that is the envy of other cities.

“Our commitment to maintaining and improving our buildings remains as strong as ever and will continue to be a key part of our drive to attract visitors, along with leisure, retail and events.

“I find it incomprehensible that Unesco would rather Bramley Moore Dock remain a derelict wasteland, rather than making a positive contribution to the city’s future and that of its residents.

“I’ll now be seeking to draw together all the UK heritage bodies in a round table to plan a positive future with further investment.”

The area has been on the List of World Heritage in Danger since 2012, when the committee decided the Liverpool Waters development, planned for the city’s northern docks, was a potential danger to the site.

Plans for Everton’s new £500 million stadium were approved earlier this year despite objections from heritage body ICOMOS, acting on behalf of Unesco, as well as the Victorian Society and Historic England.

A report considered by the committee, meeting virtually and in person in Fuzhou, China, said: “The approved planning application for a new football stadium in Bramley-Moore Dock within the property adds to the ascertained threat on the property’s outstanding universal value (OUV) and is directly contrary to the approach requested by the committee for this property.”

Liverpool City Council said £700 million had been invested in upgrading historic assets within the site in the past few years and a further £800m was due to be spent in the next five years, including on Everton’s move from Goodison Park to the dock area.

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