Liverpool loses its UNESCO World Heritage status

A view shows Royal Liver Building, Cunard Building and Port of Liverpool Building, collectively known as Liverpool's Three Graces, after the city lost its UNESCO World Heritage status, in Liverpool, Britain, July 21, 2021. Reuters
Liverpool was removed Wednesday from the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites after being granted the title 17 years ago, because of concerns about developments in the city — most significantly on its famous waterfront.

The decision was made in Fuzhou, China, after a secret ballot by the UNESCO committee, which voted in favour of a recommendation made in June to strip Liverpool of its heritage status.

A report published in June by the committee expressed “deep regret” and said that developments in the city and on its waterfront had “resulted in serious deterioration and irreversible loss of attributes,” as well as a “significant loss to its authenticity and integrity.”

Liverpool gained its World Heritage status in 2004, in recognition of its mercantile and maritime history reflected in grand architecture. As one of the world’s major trading centres in the 18th and 19th centuries, Liverpool built much of its prosperity from the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The heritage list is designed to recognise and preserve monuments, buildings and other sites, with member states obligated, to the greatest extent possible, to preserve them. The decision to remove Liverpool will be a blow to the prestige of a city that has fought to revitalize itself in recent years.

Only two other sites have lost their heritage status: the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman, in 2007, after the number of oryx dropped precipitously and the government cut the size of the sanctuary by 90%; and the Dresden Elbe Valley in Germany, two years later, because of the construction of a bridge that cut through it.

In Liverpool’s case, concern was focused in part on concerns about a $7 billion regeneration plan for its historic waterfront. The project includes luxury apartments and towering buildings, raising fears that they would endanger its skyline and architecture, leading to the city being placed on the list for World Heritage in Danger in 2012.

In a statement, the mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson, said that she was “hugely disappointed and concerned” by Wednesday’s decision.

“Our World Heritage site has never been in better condition having benefited from hundreds of millions of pounds of investment across dozens of listed buildings and the public realm,” she said. “We will be working with government to examine whether we can appeal but, whatever happens, Liverpool will always be a World Heritage city.”

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