Liverpool has welcomed a decision that the city retains its World Heritage Status.
The World Heritage Committee formally approved the status at their annual summit in Bahrain today, accepting a recommendation by UNESCO and heritage body ICOMOS that Liverpool is not deleted from the World Heritage list.
The decision recognises the collaborative work of Liverpool city council, Government, Historic England and Peel Holdings, which resulted in a new Desired State of Conservation Report (DSOCR) describing the corrective measures Liverpool is proposing to protect the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of its World Heritage site.
The DSOCR which was endorsed by the council’s Cabinet in February and submitted to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport was fully accepted by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session.
The report focuses on the main issue of how the city needs to balance its projected population and economic growth over the next 15 years, which will see the creation of 35,000 new homes and 30,000 jobs, whilst protecting its World Heritage Site (WHS).
The main threat to the city’s WHS, as perceived by UNESCO, is the nature of proposed development in areas of the £5bn Liverpool Waters scheme, specifically for its Central Docks neighbourhood, which was given outline planning permission in June 2013.
However, the report shows that in close collaboration with the Council and Historic England, Peel’s illustrative proposals for Central Docks have been reviewed in line with UNESCO’s recently published ‘Historic Urban Landscapes (HUL)’ guidance, and a resulting neighbourhood masterplan, focused on the human scale and the site’s heritage assets, with a clearer justification for the profile and heights of buildings set out around a major central park.
Other proposed corrective measures in the DSOCR, all of which are either completed or in progress, are:
- The provision of a comprehensive Management Plan for the World Heritage Site (WHS) – approved by Cabinet in May 2017
- To provide regulatory planning documents which provide clear, legal guidelines to protect the WHS Property. The City Local Plan, the Liverpool Waters Neighbourhood Masterplans, the WHS management Plan and a proposed new Supplementary Planning Document
- Develop a skyline policy for tall buildings as proposed in the City’s Local Plan
- Provide clear urban design guidelines as proposed in the City’s Local Plan
- Implement the complementary Ten Streets Spatial Regeneration Framework – approved by Cabinet in February 2018
- Future management of the WHS Property potentially through the creation of a new Trust
- Develop and Implement a WHS Interpretation and Communication Strategy building on the creation of the first WHS ‘Hub’ at the RIBA North Centre including the use of the City’s Digital Model
- Review the WHS Property boundary with a view to the enhancement/extension of the site
Mayor Joe Anderson, who set up an independent Task Force in 2017 to forge a positive debate with Government and UNESCO, said: “Today’s decision that Liverpool will retain its World Heritage status is very welcome news, and a testament to the hard work that has been going on to explain the city’s vision to UNESCO and bring them to the city to see our unique position.
“Liverpool’s maritime heritage is a fundamental part of our city, our history, and our culture offering to attract visitors. We are, rightly, very proud of our heritage and its contribution to our tourism economy.
“The DSOCR report shows in great detail the lengths Liverpool has already gone and will continue to go, to balance the needs of a growing city whilst protecting our World Heritage Status.
“This is a delicate task and involves all the major city stakeholders working together to understand very specific planning issues and creating solutions that works for the city and UNESCO.”
The UNESCO and ICOMOS report can be read here (pages 4-7): https://whc.unesco.org/archive/2018/whc18-42com-7AAdd-en.pdf
Councillor Alice Bennett, Liverpool’s Mayoral Lead for Heritage, who is representing the city at the WHS summit, said: “This decision is an important step in the right direction and shows that Liverpool’s determination to maintain our World Heritage status is being recognised. Many individuals and groups have worked tirelessly to get to this position and credit must go to Mayor Joe Anderson for making it a priority and the council’s planning team for all their hard work. A lot of hard work remains but the commitment is there to build on what has been achieved to date.”
Liverpool has already taken many steps to protect and improve the physical state of its WHS. A survey has shown that since 2012 the number of Buildings at Risk have been reduced to below 2.75% of building stock – far below the UK national average – with recent successes including the re-opening of St Luke’s Church (also known as the Bombed Out Church) while work this week has begun to save and eventually transform the historic Wellington Rooms (the city’s former Irish Centre).
In total more than £750m has been invested into historic assets within the WHS in the past decade including the upgrade of 37 listed buildings, 18 with council financial assistance, such as the Aloft Hotel, the award-winning Central Library and Stanley Dock.
Since 2015 each development proposal that has the potential to affect the OUV is accompanied by an ICOMOS compliant Heritage Impact Assessment that details the significance of the asset/s that may be affected, the nature of that impact and, where appropriate, how any harmful impacts can be mitigated.
Sir David Henshaw, Chair of Liverpool’s WHS taskforce said inviting the WHS committee to Liverpool would be “a crucial next step so members can see for themselves the progress that is being made in Liverpool.”
He added: “This decision is very good news in the sense that our status is not going to be removed. Liverpool is still on the danger list so there’s much work to be done. Fortunately much progress has been made and now there is a clear roadmap to develop.
“As well a greater communication with the WHS committee we also need to focus on how we engage more with stakeholders and communities so they can better understand how the site can shape the city’s future.”