Liverpool retains World Heritage Status

THE World Heritage Committee formally approved Liverpool’s World Heritage Status at their annual summit in Bahrain today, accepting a recommendation by UNESCO and heritage body ICOMOS that the cityl is not deleted from the World Heritage list.

The decision recognises the collaborative work of Liverpool city council, Government, Historic England and Peel Holdings, which resulted in a new Desired State of Conservation Report (DSOCR) describing the corrective measures Liverpool is proposing to protect the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of its World Heritage site.

The DSOCR which was endorsed by the council’s Cabinet in February and submitted to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport was fully accepted by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session.

The report focuses on the main issue of how the city needs to balance its projected population and economic growth over the next 15 years, which will see the creation of 35,000 new homes and 30,000 jobs, whilst protecting its World Heritage Site (WHS).

The main threat to the city’s WHS, as perceived by UNESCO, is the nature of proposed development in areas of the £5bn Liverpool Waters scheme, specifically for its Central Docks neighbourhood, which was given outline planning permission in June 2013.

However, the report shows that in close collaboration with the Council and Historic England, Peel’s illustrative proposals for Central Docks have been reviewed in line with UNESCO’s recently published ‘Historic Urban Landscapes (HUL)’ guidance, and a resulting neighbourhood masterplan, focused on the human scale and the site’s heritage assets, with a clearer justification for the profile and heights of buildings set out around a major central park.

Mayor Joe Anderson, who set up an independent Task Force in 2017 to forge a positive debate with Government and UNESCO, said: “Today’s decision that Liverpool will retain its World Heritage status is very welcome news, and a testament to the hard work that has been going on to explain the city’s vision to UNESCO and bring them to the city to see our unique position.

“Liverpool’s maritime heritage is a fundamental part of our city, our history, and our culture offering to attract visitors.  We are, rightly, very proud of our heritage and its contribution to our tourism economy.

“The DSOCR report shows in great detail the lengths Liverpool has already gone and will continue to go, to balance the needs of a growing city whilst protecting our World Heritage Status.

“This is a delicate task and involves all the major city stakeholders working together to understand very specific planning issues and creating solutions that works for the city and UNESCO.”

Liverpool has already taken many steps to protect and improve the physical state of its WHS. A survey has shown that since 2012 the number of Buildings at Risk have been reduced to below 2.75% of building stock – far below the UK national average – with recent successes including the re-opening of St Luke’s Church (also known as the Bombed Out Church) while work this week has begun to save and eventually transform the historic Wellington Rooms (the city’s former Irish Centre).

In total more than £750m has been invested into historic assets within the WHS in the past decade including the upgrade of 37 listed buildings, 18 with council financial assistance, such as the Aloft Hotel, the award-winning Central Library and Stanley Dock.

Sir David Henshaw, Chair of Liverpool’s WHS taskforce said inviting the WHS committee to Liverpool would be “a crucial next step so members can see for themselves the progress that is being made in Liverpool.”

He added: “This decision is very good news in the sense that our status is not going to be removed. Liverpool is still on the danger list so there’s much work to be done. Fortunately much progress has been made and now there is a clear roadmap to develop.

“As well a greater communication with the WHS committee we also need to focus on how we engage more with stakeholders and communities so they can better understand how the site can shape the city’s future.”