UNESCO removes Liverpool from world heritage list, UK says ‘extremely disappointed’

The UN's cultural agency UNESCO on Wednesday voted narrowly to remove Liverpool's waterfront from its list of world heritage sites, citing concerns about over development.

UNESCO removes Liverpool from world heritage list, UK says 'extremely disappointed'
Boats are moored up by historical waterfront buildings the Liver, Cunard and Port of Liverpool. (Photo Credit: AFP)

By Agence France-Presse (AFP)

London: Britain on Wednesday expressed grave disappointment after the UN’s cultural agency UNESCO voted to remove Liverpool from its list of world heritage sites because of overdevelopment.”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,” a UK government spokeswoman said in a statement.

The UN’s cultural agency UNESCO on Wednesday voted narrowly to remove Liverpool’s waterfront from its list of world heritage sites, citing concerns about overdevelopment, including plans for a new football stadium.

At committee talks chaired by China, 13 delegates voted in favour of the proposal and five against, just one more than the two-thirds majority required to delete a site from the global list. “It means that the site of Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City is deleted from the World Heritage List,” Tian Xuejun, chairman of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, declared.

It is only the third such removal, after previous decisions affecting Oman and Germany. Over two days of committee discussions, delegates heard that the redevelopment plans, including high-rise buildings, would “irreversibly damage” the heritage of the historic port in northwest England.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites, which advises UNESCO on the heritage list, said the UK government had been “repeatedly requested” to come up with stronger assurances about the city’s future. The planned new stadium for Everton football club was approved by the government without any public enquiry, and “is the most recent example of a major project that is completely contrary” to UNESCO goals, it said.

But UK culture minister Caroline Dinenage told the committee that her government was serious about preserving Liverpool’s character, arguing that delisting “would be a huge loss”. Liverpool’s newly elected mayor Joanne Anderson said she was “really disappointed” in the decision and would try to appeal.

The waterfront and docks of Liverpool were listed by UNESCO in 2004, after an ambitious regeneration following decades of decline in one of the cradles of Britain’s Industrial Revolution. The city also saw the departure of millions of Irish and British emigrants, as well as African slaves, to the United States and elsewhere, a history that forged what UNESCO deemed Liverpool’s “distinctive character and unique spirit”.

But since 2012 the agency has locked horns with UK officials over development that has seen extensive restorations but also new construction that UNESCO inspectors say is overwhelming the district. It had urged the city to limit building heights and reconsider the proposed new stadium for Everton at the Bramley-Moore Dock, warning of “significant loss to its authenticity and integrity”.

The waterfront is also the site of a statue honouring the four members of The Beatles, the most famous cultural export from a city rich in musical history. Liverpool, a stronghold of the opposition Labour party, has complained of a lack of backing from Britain’s Conservative government. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a former journalist, has infuriated its lawmakers with past criticism of the city. As editor of The Spectator magazine, Johnson in 2004 published an article that accused its residents of wallowing in victimhood and smeared Liverpool football fans over the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

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