This article provides some background information on the video presented on my AidanEyewitness channel 13.08.2021.
In the video we take a tour around the UNESCO designated area of central Liverpool and look at how Dresden has fared since delisting. We ask the question: Did Liverpool deserve to lose UNESCO World Heritage Status?
We’re going to go on a tour around the UNESCO designated area and we’ll start in the docks to the north. The Stanley Dock lift bridge has already been restored, but the six-sided ‘Docker’s Clock’ designed by Jesse Hartley are still awaiting renovation.
Bramley Moore Dock was designed by Jesse Hartley and opened in 1848. The Everton Bramley Moore Football Club stadium is the project that convinced UNESCO to delist the city. But the Bramley Moore Dock has been lying derelict for a long time. The architects of the project have stated that they are doing their utmost to preserve and enhance the site and that if the Everton football club in the distant future decides to move, the site can be reverse-engineered back into a dock. The hydraulic tower will be restored and opened up to the public. The project will bring economic development to part of Liverpool.
The headlines use the provocative words “Liverpool has been stripped of its UNESCO world heritage status”. On the UNESCO web page, the title now strikethrough applied to it Maybe the page will eventually be deleted. But does that mean Liverpool’s status as a world heritage city has been deleted? No, only the word UNESCO has been deleted. UNESCO will lose its association with the great city of Liverpool, one of the most famous and best-loved cities in the world.
Next we go to The Stanley Flight on the Leeds Liverpool Canal. The UNESCO area encompasses the locks and the area at the top by the railway
What does the delisting mean? Does it mean that the six areas in the historic centre and docklands of the maritime mercantile City of Liverpool no longer bear witness to the development of one of the world’s major trading centres in the 18th and 19th centuries, that Liverpool did not play an important role in the growth of the British Empire and was not a pioneer in the development of modern dock technology, transport systems and port management? – I’ve adapted the wording from the UNESCO page here – No, of course not. Liverpool has been and always will be one of the most significant cities in the world for all these reasons and more.
Liverpool is one of the top five most visited tourist destinations in the country. It has 27 Grade 1 listed buildings and 85 Grade II* star buildings. Liverpool a great sporting city. Irrespective of the UNESCO decision, Liverpool has countless attractions that are still here for everyone to enjoy.
The Dresden Elbe Valley was delisted after the construction of the Waldschlösschenbrücke. I have been informed that the delisting has had no effect on tourism, however the traffic situation around Dresden has improved!
In the next section of the video we cycle through the historic mercantile city, roughly following the UNESCO boundary, going past Liverpool Parish Church or the Church of St Nicholas, Hargreaves Buildings on Chapel Street, the Western Approaches Museum, Rumford Street, Fazakerley Street, the Albany Building on New Hall Street, the facade of the Liverpool Exchange Buildings on Chapel Street and many more. Along Moorfields we can see the Grade II listed Prudential Building, designed by Alfred Waterhouse. All these buildings help to tell the story of Liverpool as a maritime mercantile city. The world heritage buildings on William Brown Street need no introduction.
The UNESCO boundary continues around the perimeter of Lime Street Station, down Skelhorne Street then along Queen Square bus station onto Whitechapel and into the Cavern Quarter, through Liverpool One and up towards Chinatown and back down towards the south docks.
My editorial continues: The UNESCO principles might be appropriate for an ancient temple complex in the jungle of Central America or maybe a poor coastal town in South East Asia with unique architecture threatened by development, but Liverpool is an important port in Europe that needs to pay its way and create opportunities for its people.
Liverpool has developed mostly respecting and enhancing its heritage. Chris Brown, Director of Marketing Liverpool said in an interview with The Guide Liverpool, that well over £600m has gone into the city’s heritage and conservation projects within the world heritage site boundaries. But the UNESCO officials have not visited in the last 10 years. The decision was taken on the other side of the world. They never gave any constructive ideas or input on how economic development can take place whilst adhering to UNESCO principles
Liverpool City Council has developed the city – mostly – respecting and enhancing its heritage.
The Albert Dock was twice threatened with demolition but is now one of the most popular tourist attractions anywhere.
UNESCO added Liverpool to its list in 2004. At that time it seemed a great accolade. But maybe after the problems of the 1980s we’d forgotten just how important Liverpool is. UNESCO status gave a boost in confidence, but now things have changed
So the question is not: “Does Liverpool deserve to lose its world heritage status?” The question is: “Did UNESCO have the right to pass judgement on Liverpool’s development plans?”
UNESCO’s principles are too purist, too idealistic and don’t take into account the particular characteristics of a city as compared to a remote, often abandoned site.
If the aim of the delisting was to send out a message that Liverpool is a city that mostly neglects and destroys its heritage, then the decision was wrong.
I think however that more and more people realise that UNESCO status can be a curse as well as a blessing. Manchester has never had UNESCO status and I understand that decision-makers there have avoided it, as it can be more of a hindrance than a help.
The UNESCO officials objected to the filling in of a dock, but that has already happened. What was the name of the historic dock from 1771 that was was filled in and covered over for some office blocks and what later became a bus station? It was the Pier Head and the office buildings? The Three Graces.
Today the former bus station is now a public area with a new canal link, the Beatles statues and many more attractions. It exists because the ‘city fathers’ of the late 19th century took the decision to fill in Georges Dock and turn the area into a civic space with three magnificent new buildings.
Was it okay for them to do this over a century ago but not okay to do the same thing today? That contradiction is why the UNESCO delisting decision was wrong.