News | 15/02/18

Liverpool sets out plan to save World Heritage status

A report outlining how Liverpool intends to save its World Heritage Status is set to be endorsed by the city council next week.

 The council, together with Government and Historic England, has drafted a Desired State of Conservation Report (DSOCR) which describes the corrective measures Liverpool is proposing to protect the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the site which the city hopes will persuade UNESCO to remove the site from the “in danger” list.

The DSOCR will go to the council’s Cabinet next Friday (23 February) for endorsement following its recent submission to Government, and once approved will be submitted to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for subsequent examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in July.

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 proposed developments in the £5bn Liverpool Waters scheme, specifically for its Central Docks area, which was given outline planning permission in June 2013. However, the report shows that Peel’s initial outline proposal for Central Docks is now being reviewed and a neighbourhood masterplan will take in heritage concerns and planning guidelines on heights of buildings.

 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

Another measure addresses the likely planning application by Everton FC to progress a new football stadium at Bramley Moore Dock. The council has stated the application will be dealt with in accordance with national and local planning policy and would need to demonstrate how it benefits the regeneration of the WHS and how its detailed design responds positively to the attributes of OUV of the site.

Mayor Joe Anderson said: “Liverpool’s World Heritage Status is of great importance to the city, not only in showcasing our unique maritime heritage but in how we can use it to shape our future boosting both our tourism economy and our civic pride.

“This 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.

“With the support and input of the DDCMS I am sure this collaborative approach means we can all ensure Liverpool’s World Heritage Status is secured when the committee meets in July.”

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 a 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.

And since the 2017 World Heritage Committee Session Liverpool has also established an independent Task Force to re-establish a positive debate with Government and UNESCO with a view to the retention of WHS status.

Did you know? Liverpool’s World Heritage Site contains six main character areas. These are:

  1. The waterfront Pier Head – contains the emblematic trio of buildings known as the Three Graces, as the prime gateway into the city from the River Mersey;
  2. The waterfront Albert Dock – its linkage to a series of neighbouring docks, and a group of privately owned warehouses now successfully and sensitively refurbished to include museums and galleries;
  3. The waterfront Stanley Dock – three privately owned warehouses now successfully and sensitively refurbished as a hotel and major conference centre, and the massive Tobacco warehouse currently in progress of conversion to adaptive re-use;
  4. Castle Street/Dale Street Commercial Centre – the historic ‘downtown’ area that contains the City’s key civic and financial buildings;
  5. William Brown Street – contains a cluster of monumental buildings, including St George’s Hall, Museum, Art Gallery, Central Library, and Lime Street Station;
  6. Ropewalks area – developed shortly after the opening of the Old Dock in 1715 and contains merchants’ housing and warehouses close to the existing city centre and the Bluecoat, the oldest arts centre in Great Britain and the oldest surviving building in the city centre.