Business leaders across Liverpool city region have told LBN the city will continue to prosper without World Heritage Status with one saying he was ‘absolutely delighted’ at the decision. Tony McDonough reports
Business leaders in Liverpool region have reacted bullishly to the city being stripped of its World Heritage Status (WHS) with some declaring ‘we are better off without it’.
A decade-old dispute between Liverpool and UNESCO, which oversees more than 1,000 World Heritage Sites across the world, came to a head on Wednesday morning when senior officials voted to delete the city from the list.
UNESCO, which awarded Liverpool WHS in 2004 in respect of its history as a global maritime powerhouse, was unhappy at proposed developments on the waterfront. Approval for Everton FC’s £500m stadium at Bramley Moore Dock proved to be the final straw. UNESCO had said the scheme was “totally unacceptable”.
Both Liverpool Mayor Joanne Anderson and Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram related with dismay to the decision. Ms Anderson said she was “gutted” while Mr Rotheram said the decision by UNESCO was a “retrograde step”.
However, both also put forward the view that Liverpool’s economic renaissance would continue apace without WHS. Ms Anderson said: “That is the journey Liverpool is on. Today’s decision does not alter the course of that journey. In fact, today’s decision only makes me and my team more determined to ensure we reach our goals.”
And a number of business leaders breathed a sigh of relief that the long-running saga was finally at an end. On Wednesday morning low-cost airline Ryanair offered a huge vote of confidence to the city by announcing 10 new European routes over the coming months.
Peel L&P, which is overseeing the multi-billion regeneration of both the Liverpool and Wirral waterfront, vowed its work would continue.
Chris Capes, director of development for Peel L&P’s Liverpool Waters, said: “UNESCO’s decision to remove Liverpool from its list of World Heritage Sites is very disappointing . Without the World Heritage Site status, however, Liverpool’s rich history remains.
“Regeneration for this part of the city is vital and, like our partners across the city region, we are focused on delivering it – creating new homes, commercial space, amenities, public realm, leisure facilities and key infrastructure on previously disused brownfield land.
“We will show the world that regeneration and the protection of Liverpool’s heritage can happen together.”
The news of the deletion was welcomed by Frank McKenna, chief executive of business lobby group Downtown in Business and a long-time critic of UNESCO. He told LBN: “World Heritage Status was as useful as a chocolate teapot.
“I am absolutely delighted today to hear the news that UNESCO has deleted Liverpool from its list of World Heritage Sites. This gives the city a great opportunity to attract more investors and makes to more challenging for those people who want to turn Liverpool into ‘bungalow city’.
“This really is great news. WHS is a vanity badge that should have been given back years ago. This really is a day when we should be celebrating. Do not underestimate the positive impact this will have on Liverpool’s future.”
Chief executive of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, Paul Cherpeau, chief executive of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, said in an ideal world Liverpool would have kept World Heritage Status, “but not at the expense of developing our city”.
“The loss of World Heritage Status is a glancing blow, yet Liverpool remains steady in its pursuit of economic prosperity for the people who live and work here through the creation of jobs and opportunities to broaden our economic base,” he said.
“We have a high-quality visitor economy which is unlikely to be significantly undermined by this misguided decision, and we must move forward with confidence to pursue projects which will further strengthen our economic future without diluting our illustrious past.”
One of Liverpool’s leading architecture practices, Falconer Chester Hall, also waded in. Director Adam Hall said: “Liverpool has a big, dynamic economy that has been successfully re-structured in recent decades and I don’t think this decision will derail the city’s growth.
“I never saw any proof that UNESCO’s accreditation, welcome as it was, was a decisive factor in the city’s booming tourism market, for example. What the city’s growth has shown over the last 20 years is that Liverpool has walked a very careful middle course between conservation and regeneration based on good, modern architecture and a responsive planning regime.
“The city still has regeneration challenges and many historic sites and buildings lend themselves well to re-use. Others, perhaps not, but the need to grow the economy and provide work have to be taken into consideration. Liverpool will continue to grow and prosper.”
Paul Kallee-Grover, chair of Liverpool China Partnership, said: “Our sister city Shanghai is a fantastic example of a city that has managed to create a very successful and innovative blend of the modern side by side with heritage – there is no reason why Liverpool will not do this with the Liverpool Waters and Everton Stadium schemes.
“Our waterfront is a key driver for the city region’s economy and it will continue to be so. We should also not forget that we are still a UNESCO City of Music that draws millions of visitors from all around the world each year, whose love for our city is unwavering.”
Sean Keyes, managing director at civil & structural engineering firm, Sutcliffe said UNESCO had “made a mistake”, adding: “You only have to look at Royal Albert Dock and The Three Graces, which are truly world class examples of heritage sites that have been modernised. Liverpool has an impressive track record of doing this sort of thing.
“Bramley-Moore Dock has been derelict all my life here in Liverpool and most people have never seen or even heard of it. Why anyone would not want to see this area redeveloped and the jobs it would create is beyond me.
And Kevin Tully, managing director of Tulway Engineering, said: “As an Evertonian and business owner in Liverpool, I welcome the new developments on the waterfront, the positive impact that they will have for the city region and the job opportunities that they will create.
“The current site is a derelict dock and after attending many meetings about the proposed plans for that area, I am certain that the investment and positive impact that will come from regenerating these empty spaces will far outweigh the loss of the World Heritage Site status.”