Unesco removes Liverpools World Heritage site designation

The Liverpool maritime mercantile waterfront has lost its world heritage status after Unesco said development in recent years had caused an "irreversible loss" to its historic value. 

The UN's heritage body concluded at a meeting in China on Wednesday that the "outstanding universal value" of Liverpool's waterfront had been destroyed by new buildings at the Pier Head, Mann Island and the long-planned Liverpool Waters development which includes Everton football club's new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock. By all accounts this was done without delegates visiting the city for several years which does raise an eyebrow.

Unesco has been threatening this action for the past decade and have issued several warnings that development has significantly changed the city's skyline and was destroying the heritage value of the waterfront. According to Unesco, recent developments have caused the waterfront to have "deteriorated to the extent that it has lost characteristics" that led to its original inclusion as a world heritage site.

Any proposed development at Mann Island adjacent to the historic waterfront has had its share of controversy. If my memory serves it was a Porsche dealership around the time of the Unesco designation. Presumably that was an appropriate setting for the maritime mercantile waterfront yet the recent development at Mann Island/Museum of Liverpool is not. Mann Island is far from perfect but it's a vast improvement from what was on site at the turn of the millennium. Perhaps it's just that I'm old enough to recall Will Alsop's controversial 'Cloud' design for the site that was thankfully scrapped and any alternative was preferable? Design and 'beauty' are a hot topic in the world of planning at the moment with the latest NPPF changes but in my opinion the 'Cloud' project was neither well designed nor beautiful.

When reading about the decision yesterday I was surprised to see how far north the Unesco designation covered. Large areas of walled off disused docklands that have been a blight on the city centre for years were included. The development potential of the north docklands offer a huge opportunity to the city that Liverpool needs to capitalise on. Perhaps more could have been done to retain the world heritage site designation but the city can't become a museum piece beholden to Unesco.

In true Liverpool style there has mostly been a shrug of the shoulders to the decision and a 'No labels needed' marketing campaign for the waterfront but time will tell on whether this has been an avoidable blow for Liverpool or a blessing in disguise.

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