The announcement caused consternation among local elected officials and the UK government. On Wednesday July 21, Unesco withdrew Liverpool from its list of World Heritage sites due to overdevelopment of this emblematic English port of the industrial era.
Thirteen delegates from Unesco’s World Heritage Committee, whose current video session is chaired by China, voted for a downgrading of this port in north-west England (classified in 2004), and five against , that is, one vote more than the two-thirds majority required to downgrade a site. Liverpool thus becomes the third site to undergo this extremely rare measure. Only two sites had previously been removed from this prestigious list, which has existed since 1972, is a boon to tourism and encourages governments to protect their cultural or environmental treasures.
The sanctuary for the Arabian oryx, a type of antelope, was withdrawn in 2007 after Oman’s decision to reduce its area by 90% for a hydrocarbon exploration project. Two years later, it was the Elbe Valley in Dresden (Germany) that had this entry withdrawn due to a road bridge construction project.
In question, for Liverpool: the redevelopment plans of the port, whose very high buildings and the new football stadium are likely to“Irreversibly damage” its heritage, as stated by the Unesco committee. Liverpool was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, after an ambitious rehabilitation of the seafront and docks after decades of decline.
Port of departure for millions of Irish and British migrants as well as African slaves, the city, with its rich musical heritage, is among other things the birthplace of the Beatles. A story that forged what Unesco considered to be the “Distinctiveness and uniqueness” from Liverpool.
However, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, which advises Unesco, had already “Repeatedly asked” the UK government to provide stronger guarantees for the future of the city, which since 2012 had been on the list of endangered heritage.
But the development projects continued, to the point of making it lose its authenticity. The new stadium for Everton Football Club – approved by the government without any public inquiry – constitutes “The most recent example of a totally opposite major project” to Unesco’s objectives, added the council.
“Liverpool still deserve their status”
“We are extremely disappointed with this decision”, reacted Wednesday morning a spokesperson of the government.
“We believe that Liverpool still deserves its World Heritage status given the important role the docks have played in history and the city more broadly. “
In a video posted on Twitter, the Labor mayor of the city, Joanne Anderson, also “Disappointed”, explains having “Hard to understand how Unesco can prefer that [Liverpool] at[it] empty docks rather than Everton stadium “. She announces that she wants to appeal this downgrading.
#BreakingNews #Video | @MayorLpool Joanne Anderson responds to UNESCO’s decision to delete Liverpool from its list… https://t.co/3DNL1PnUVT
Denouncing a “Decision taken on the other side of the world by people who do not seem to understand the rebirth” that the city has experienced in recent years, the leader of the Liverpool region, Steve Rotheram, sees it as a “Retrograde measure, which does not reflect the reality on the ground”.
“Many of the sites cited by Unesco are in communities that are in dire need of investment”, he stressed, believing that the “Places like Liverpool should not be faced with the binary choice between keeping its heritage status” or come to the aid of his “Communities left behind”.
Several countries, including Australia, whose Great Barrier Reef is also threatened with decommissioning, had spoken out against removing Liverpool from the list, saying it would be a measure “Radical” in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic. Brazil, Hungary and Nigeria had asked that the decision be postponed for a year, to give more time to the new municipal council, elected in May.