Body set up to promote the 30 British WHS sites believes the three steps taken by Liverpool City Council and property giant Peel could lead to the city being taken off the ‘in danger’ list. Tony McDonough reports
World Heritage UK has welcomed Liverpool’s “change of mood” and its efforts to work to preserve its World Heritage Status (WHS) – threatened by plans for skyscrapers on the waterfront.
And the body set up to promote the 30 British sites with WHS believes the three steps taken by Liverpool City Council and property giant Peel could lead to the city being taken off the ‘in danger’ list.
Liverpool secured WHS from UNESCO in 2004 and it covers six city centre sites including the world-famous Pier Head and waterfront.
However, in 2012 UNESCO raised concerns about proposed developments in Peel’s £5bn Liverpool Waters scheme north of the Pier Head. Peel unveiled a spectacular 30-year masterplan to build a number of tall buildings.
The scheme had the full backing of the city council which granted outline planning permission. Although not in the WHS zone itself, much of the scheme was in a ‘buffer zone’ and UNESCO feared it would have a negative impact on the historic waterfront. Consequently, the site was put on a danger list.
A number of prominent business voices, as well as Liverpool’s elected Mayor Joe Anderson, initially stood firm and insisted Liverpool’s economic development could not be held back.
In recent weeks the city’s stance towards UNESCO has become more conciliatory with efforts now being made to reach a compromise. However, Mayor Anderson repeated his view in March that Liverpool “cannot be encased in aspic”.
World Heritage UK has welcomed the “three positive initiatives” to minimise the risk of Liverpool losing WHS. They include the setting up of a task force to address UNESCO’s concerns; a ‘Desired State of Conservation Report’ to set out their view of the city’s WHS status; and a review of the masterplan for the Liverpool Waters.
Chris Blandford, World Heritage UK President, said: “While the revised plan is still at an early stage, we believe that it has the potential to deliver a far more coherent, sensitive and appropriate development form, one which better respects the site’s outstanding universal value, and is better integrated with Stanley Dock and the adjacent Ten Streets regeneration area.”
And Sam Rose, World Heritage UK chair, added: “Cities grow and change, as they always have done, and there will always be conflicts and tensions in the protection of the outstanding universal value of urban World Heritage Sites.
“We see no situation that is not resolvable with early and constructive dialogue, and we encourage that now in the case of Liverpool.”