Liverpool loses heritage tag over Blues home


Liverpool loses its UNESCO world heritage status Image: Everton FC

Liverpool (UK) has lost its coveted World Heritage Site status after the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) chiefs voted in a secret ballot to delete it from the list that also features the Taj Mahal and Venice.

‘inews’ stated that at a heritage committee meeting in China held recently, 21 countries including Guatemala, Mali and Kyrgyzstan took part in a vote to decide the fate of the City’s waterfront.

The heritage body said in an earlier report that planning approval for Everton’s proposed £500m stadium at Bramley Moore Dock had added to the “ascertained threat” to the waterfront’s “outstanding universal value” and signals a “lack of commitment” to “protect the property in the long term”.

Liverpool is a City and metropolitan borough in Merseyside, England, with a population in 2019 of 498,042, making it the 10th-largest English district by population. Liverpool’s metropolitan area is the fifth-largest in the United Kingdom, with a population of 2.24 million.

The 52,888-capacity Bramley-Moore Dock Stadium is a proposed football stadium by the Premier League team Everton FC on the Bramley-Moore Dock in Vauxhall, Liverpool, England. The dock itself was built in 1848. The stadium is proposed to be opened in time for the start of the 2023-2024 Premier League seasons, replacing Goodison Park.

Thirteen countries voted in favor of deleting Liverpool from the list, while five voted against. Two votes were invalid and one country failed to take part in the vote. A two-thirds majority was needed for deletion.

The ‘inews’ further stated that Liverpool’s waterfront is only the third property to be deleted from the list after the Elbe Valley in Dresden, Germany, and the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman.

The Chairman of the meeting, Tian Xuejun, banging his gavel on the table, said, “The draft decision is adopted. It means that the site of Liverpool maritime mercantile City is deleted from the list.”

Dr. Mechtild Rössler, Director, UNESCO World Heritage Centre, said ahead of the meeting that it would be a “very, very painful” moment if the decision was approved.

UNESCO officials said in a report – while justifying Liverpool’s deletion from the list – that the UK Government had failed to “fulfill its obligations” to protect and conserve the site.

To get a spot back on the list, Liverpool would have to demonstrate that it had “complied with the advice they had previously issued on the conditions and actions needed to preserve the site’s outstanding universal value” before it could reapply, UNESCO maintained.

A draft decision notice had said the UNESCO committee “notes with deep regret” that “inadequate governance processes, mechanisms and regulations” have resulted in a “significant loss” to the “authenticity and integrity” of the site.

Norway called for the secret ballot to take place, with its delegate telling the World Heritage Committee meeting the UK Government had “made no concessions” and “the world is watching”.

The call was backed by Guatemala, while the Chinese delegate who faced down calls for the decision to be adjourned until the next meeting in 2022, added, “We need to shoulder the responsibility. We can’t shy away from it.”

The committee of nations is elected by the UN General Assembly to serve four-year terms in the role.

Liverpool was put on UNESCO’s ‘danger list’ – which also features sites in Iraq, Syria and Palestine – after the £5bn Liverpool Waters project to restore the northern docks was approved in 2013.

The City had been calling on the committee to defer its decision and see what progress has been made since the last UNESCO mission visited Merseyside back in 2015.

A Liverpool City Council report, which has been presented to committee members, said £700m has been invested in upgrading 119 historic assets in the past few years, including the refurbishment of 59 listed buildings.

It said a further £800m is to be invested in more than 40 heritage assets in the next five years – including Bramley-Moore Dock.

Neither the Omani site, which was delisted with Government consent after the intrusion of an oil field on the reserve, nor the German site, which had a new bridge bisect the view of the valley in the knowledge that the listing could be affected, have made an effort to get a place back on the list.

Hundreds of sites around the world are in the process of being put forward to join the list, including a number of UK sites from Shetland’s Iron Age heritage to the slate industry in Wales.

Liverpool City Mayor Joanne Anderson said the result was “incomprehensible”.

She added, “Our World Heritage Site has never been in better condition, having benefited from hundreds of millions of pounds of investment.”

Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram observed, “The decision by UNESCO is a retrograde step that does not reflect the reality of what is happening on the ground. Indeed, this was a decision taken on the other side of the world by people who do not appear to understand the renaissance that has taken place in recent years.”

He added, “This is a really disappointing decision, but I am confident that our City will remain a vibrant and attractive cultural destination and – as we rebuild from the pandemic – will continue to welcome millions of people to our City and the wider City region.”

A UK Government spokesperson commented, “We are extremely disappointed in this decision and believe Liverpool still deserves its World Heritage Status given the significant role the historic docks and the wider City have played throughout history.”

UNESCO said in a statement, “Any deletion from the World Heritage List is a loss to the international community and to the internationally shared values and commitments under the World Heritage Convention.”

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