Liverpool should hand back its ‘vanity’ World Heritage Status, says business leader

As UNESCO once again threatens the city with its removal, Downtown in Business chief executive Frank McKenna says we should tell them to get stuffed. Tony McDonough reports

Liverpool Waters
UNESCO is concerned that Everton FC’s new stadium would impact on the waterfront vista


A Liverpool business leader days Liverpool should “hand back” its World Heritage Status (WHS) following UNESCO’s latest criticism of the city.

Frank McKenna, chief executive of business lobbying organisation Downtown in Business, said he is “fed up” of Liverpool going “cap in hand” to please UNESCO, which he branded a “faceless, unaccountable body”.

Removal threat

For the past couple of years UNESCO has been threatening Liverpool with the loss of WHS, awarded in 2004 and covering the waterfront and city centre. It is unhappy with proposed developments at Peel’s £5bn Liverpool Waters scheme in the northern docklands.

Although Liverpool Waters is outside of the WHS area it is part of a ‘buffer zone’ and UNESCO is concerned that proposed residential and office buildings, as well as a new stadium planned by Everton FC, would have a detrimental impact on the world famous waterfront vista.

Liverpool City Council and Peel have attempted to placate UNESCO with Peel, in particular, making changes to the Liverpool Waters masterplan in order to allay the concerns. However, UNESCO remains unmoved and is once again threatening to remove WHS. It believes the stadium could threaten the “authenticity and integrity” of Liverpool’s waterfront.

Frank McKenna
Frank McKenna, chief executive of Downtown in Business. Picture by Tony McDonough


The council has been asked to respond to UNESCO’s concerns by February next year and Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said: “Our situation is complex because the city centre is not a monument. We are a bustling, dynamic, thriving 21st century city that continues to evolve.”

And the response from Mr Kenna was even stronger. He believes the row with UNESCO is putting off investors and is a barrier to Liverpool’s continued economic renaissance. He is urging the city council to “give the badge back”.

Pausing progress

He told LBN: “I can’t be the only one who is fed up with the city having to constantly go cap in hand to this faceless, unaccountable body, amending plans, stymying regeneration and pausing progress in order to retain a title that is worth little or nothing in economic, tourism or cultural  terms.

READ MORE: Work on stalled Liverpool Waters tower may restart – but why did it stop?

“Can the ordinary Liverpudlian understand how an abandoned, derelict part of the city can be considered a ‘heritage site’ that needs to be protected? Do we really want to be sending a message to international investors that, as well as all the usual planning rules and regulations they have to face to get development plans approved, here in our city we have additional hoops that they have to jump through?

“More importantly are we going to allow UNESCO to stop the regeneration of north Liverpool, not just in the dock area but in Walton too – stop business growth, stop job creation and put in jeopardy the potential and opportunities these plans offer our city?”

Mr Kenna said he was in favour of a quality threshold on the design on new buildings in the city, but added: “The irony is, since WHS was awarded, some tat has been allowed to go up in the city. UNESCO is seemingly disinterested in the core of our city centre, while objecting to plans to revive an area of town that has been neglected for too long.

“It is time to tell them to take back their vanity badge and let Liverpool continue the momentum that has seen it revive its fortunes over the past decade without the hinderance of useless, bureaucratic interference.”

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