This is the moment President Xi’s Chinese representative on the Unesco World Heritage Committee – Tian Xuejun – announced Liverpool had been stripped of its World Heritage Site status
Liverpool’s Labour leaders today blasted unelected Unesco bureaucrats on the ‘other side of the world’ who stripped the city of its World Heritage Site status despite delegates from the UN-backed agency not visiting its historic docks for a decade.
The city was named on the World Heritage List in 2004, joining Venice, the Taj Mahal in India and Egypt’s Pyramids it was the UK’s gateway to the globe and a symbol of Britain’s centuries of global trade and influence.
But it was placed on Unesco’s so-called ‘danger list’ – which also features sites in Iraq, Syria and Palestine – after the £5billion Liverpool Waters project to restore the northern docks was approved with a new £500million football ground for Everton on the docks causing further concerns.
And following a secret ballot in Fuzhou, the World Heritage Committee – made up of representatives of 21 countries and led by Xi Jinping’s deputy education minister Tian Xuejun – the ‘Unescocrats’ voted to remove the site from the list – with Guatemala and China rumoured to have voted for, and Norway against, the city’s removal.
The decision described as ‘incomprehensible’ by Liverpool Mayor Joanne Anderson and her Labour colleague Steve Rotheram, Liverpool City Region mayor, who believe Unesco punishes cities trying to regenerate and would prefers places to be ‘preserved in aspic’.
Mayor Anderson said: ‘I’m hugely disappointed and concerned by this decision to delete Liverpool’s World Heritage status, which comes a decade after Unesco last visited the city to see it with their own eyes’. While Mayor Rotheram said: ‘This was a decision taken on the other side of the world by people who do not appear to understand the renaissance that has taken place in recent years’.
Unesco’s main concerns appear to revolve around £5bn Liverpool Waters development of the waterfront and plans for Everton’s new £500m football stadium at Bramley Moore Dock.
A Government spokesman told MailOnline: ‘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.’
Unesco’s World Heritage Committee was advised to make the decision after a report said ‘inadequate governance processes, mechanisms, and regulations for new developments in and around the World Heritage property’ resulted in ‘serious deterioration and irreversible loss of attributes’.
Announcing Liverpool had lost its status today, committee chairman Tian Xuejun said 20 votes had been cast. Thirteen had been in favour of deleting the city, five had been against the proposal and two ballot papers had been invalid.
Unesco today removed Liverpool from its World Heritage List after a United Nations committee found Government-approved developments including the new Everton FC stadium threatened the ‘authenticity and integrity’ of the city’s historic waterfront
In an earlier report, the body also said that planning approval for Everton’s proposed stadium at Bramley Moore Dock had added to the ‘ascertained threat’ to the waterfront’s ‘outstanding universal value’ and signals a ‘lack of commitment’ to ‘protect the property in the long-term’
Liverpool City Council was defiant today and tweeted there was ‘no labels needed’ for its historic docks
The decision described as ‘incomprehensible’ by Liverpool Mayor Joanne Anderson and her Labour colleague Steve Rotheram, Liverpool City Region mayor, who believe Unesco punishes cities trying to regenerate. Labour MPs in the area are also angry
History of Liverpool’s World Heritage site now stripped of its prestigious status
The Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City is a Unesco designated World Heritage Site in Liverpool comprising of six locations in the city centre.
It includes the Pier Head, Albert Dock and William Brown Street as well as other city landmarks.
Unesco received the city council’s nomination for the six sites in January 2003 and in September of that year sent International Council of Monuments and Statues representatives to carry out an evaluation on the eligibility for these areas to be given World Heritage Status.
In March 2004 ICOMOS recommended that Unesco inscribe the Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City as a World Heritage Site.
In 2012, the site was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to the proposed construction of Liverpool Waters project.
In July 2017, Unesco warned that the city’s status as a World Heritage Site was at risk of being rescinded in light of planning and development proposals.
English Heritage asserted that the proposed Liverpool Waters development would leave the setting of some of Liverpool’s most significant historic buildings ‘severely compromised’, the archaeological remains of parts of the historic docks ‘at risk of destruction’, and ‘the city’s historic urban landscape … permanently unbalanced’.
Discussions on the future for the city began on Sunday but by Monday members had been unable to reach a consensus view and delegates from Norway proposed a secret ballot be held on the issue.
Announcing the decision on Wednesday, committee chairman Tian Xuejun said 20 votes had been cast. Thirteen had been in favour of deleting the city, five had been against the proposal and two ballot papers had been invalid.
Mayor Anderson said: ‘I’m hugely disappointed and concerned by this decision to delete Liverpool’s World Heritage status, which comes a decade after Unesco last visited the city to see it with their own eyes. Our World Heritage site has never been in better condition having benefitted from hundreds of millions of pounds of investment across dozens of listed buildings and the public realm.
‘We will be working with Government to examine whether we can appeal but, whatever happens, Liverpool will always be a World Heritage city. We have a stunning waterfront and incredible built heritage that is the envy of other cities.
‘Our commitment to maintaining and improving our buildings remains as strong as ever and will continue to be a key part of our drive to attract visitors, along with leisure, retail and events.
‘I find it incomprehensible that Unesco would rather Bramley Moore Dock remain a derelict wasteland, rather than making a positive contribution to the city’s future and that of its residents. I’ll now be seeking to draw together all the UK heritage bodies in a round table to plan a positive future with further investment.’
In an earlier report, the body also said that planning approval for Everton’s proposed stadium at Bramley Moore Dock had added to the ‘ascertained threat’ to the waterfront’s ‘outstanding universal value’ and signals a ‘lack of commitment’ to ‘protect the property in the long-term’.
At Monday’s session, delegates from Norway proposed the decision to be made via secret ballot and the move was supported by those representing Guatemala and Uganda. A debate on the decision began on Sunday, but the nations were unable to reach a consensus on the issues.
Britain’s other Unesco World Heritage sites
Blaenavon Industrial Landscape (2000)
Blenheim Palace (1987)
Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s Church (1988)
Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd (1986)
City of Bath (1987)
Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape (2006)
Derwent Valley Mills (2001)
Durham Castle and Cathedral (1986)
Frontiers of the Roman Empire (1987,2005,2008)
Gorham’s Cave Complex (2016)
Heart of Neolithic Orkney (1999)
Historic Town of St George and Related Fortifications, Bermuda (2000)
Ironbridge Gorge (1986)
Jodrell Bank Observatory (2019)
Maritime Greenwich (1997)
New Lanark (2001)
Old and New Towns of Edinburgh (1995)
Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey including Saint Margaret’s Church (1987)
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal (2009)
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (2003)
Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites (1986)
Studley Royal Park including the Ruins of Fountains Abbey (1986)
The English Lake District (2017)
The Forth Bridge (2015)
Tower of London (1988)
Dorset and East Devon Coast (2001)
Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast (1986)
Gough and Inaccessible Islands (1995,2004)
Henderson Island (1988)
Scottish archipelago of St Kilda (1986,2004, 2005)
Opening the meeting on Monday, chairman of the World Heritage Committee Tian Xuejun said: ‘We heard extensive, in-depth discussions and a number of committee members have expressed diverging views.’
Delegates from Hungary suggested the decision be adjourned to the 2022 session, but representatives from countries including China and Bahrain disagreed. Participating countries will send representatives to the Unesco headquarters in Paris on Wednesday morning to cast their votes, and a decision will be announced shortly after.
A report by Liverpool City Council said £700million had been invested in upgrading historic assets within the site in the past few years, and a further £800million was due to be spent in the next five years, including on Everton’s move from Goodison Park to the dock area.
Plans for the £500million stadium were approved earlier this year despite objections from heritage body Icomos, acting on behalf of Unesco, as well as the Victorian Society and Historic England.
Leaders in Liverpool had called for Unesco to defer the decision so the committee could visit the city.
However, a draft decision notice seen by the i newspaper says that the Unesco committee ‘notes with deep regret’ that ‘inadequate governance processes, mechanisms and regulations’ have resulted in a ‘significant loss’ to the ‘authenticity and integrity’ of the site.
The committee adds that ‘the process of further deterioration is irreversible’ and the Government has ‘not fulfilled its obligations’ to ‘protect and conserve’ Liverpool’s heritage under the UN convention about the site.
A report said: ‘The approved planning application for a new football stadium in Bramley-Moore Dock within the property adds to the ascertained threat on the property’s outstanding universal value (OUV) and is directly contrary to the approach requested by the committee for this property.’
In its latest report, the committee said: ‘The UK Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government reviewed and approved the project.
‘The state party has not complied with the repeated requests of the committee and has itself indicated that there are no legal and other means available in the governance of the property that would allow the state party to comply with all of the committee’s requests so as to ensure the protection of the property.’
Damian Moore, MP for Southport, previously told MailOnline it would be ‘disappointing’ and a ‘great shame’ if Liverpool was to be removed from the list, but ultimately said redevelopment is important for the city.
Tian Xuejun speaks to 44th session of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO in Fuzhou in southeast China’s Fujian Province
Ms Anderson also previously said it would be ‘hugely unfair’ if it was decided the city was to be removed after a discussion during the meeting of the World Heritage Committee in late July.
‘We think deletion would be hugely unfair given all this body of work has not yet been assessed by the committee members and we need them to see Bramley Moore Dock with their own eyes,’ she said.
‘Deletion would not just be a loss to Liverpool, the UK, and to a greater degree Unesco, it would be an even bigger missed opportunity in demonstrating to the world that heritage and regeneration are not mutually exclusive.’
Steve Rotheram, Liverpool City Region mayor, previously said the push to remove Liverpool from the list was ‘deeply disappointing’, while heritage campaigner Wayne Colquhoun said city planners had ‘pushed the boundaries’ too far.
What makes a World Heritage Site?
There are ten key requirements an area must have to be considered for World Heritage Site status:
To represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;
To exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;
To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
To be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;
To be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;
To be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria);
To contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;
To be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;
To be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;
To contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.