Heritage group SAVE today urged newly appointed Culture Secretary Karen Bradley to call an urgent summit meeting to discuss Liverpool’s World Heritage Site.
SAVE, currently in a legal battle over plans to demolish the old Futurist and develop Lime Street, made the call after Unesco, the United Nation’s body responsible for all world heritage sites, called for a two-year moratorium on new development with Liverpool’s WHS.
It prompted Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson to respond with a flat refusal, saying such a measure would stifle development redevelopment in the city.
We are calling on the Secretary of State for Culture, Karen Bradley, to call a summit meeting.... to resolve this crisis as a matter of urgency
The Liverpool WHS has been on UNESCO's “At Risk” register since 2012 following a decision to give outline planning permission to Peel’s £5 billion pound Liverpool Waters concept.
SAVE’s Henrietta Billings told Liverpool Confidential today: "World Heritage Status is a global honour, and a privilege that puts Liverpool's architecture and history on the world stage.
“Inappropriate new development that blocks views, overshadows historic streets and demolishes notable buildings is putting this prestigious accolade at unnecessary risk. Our new government should be doing everything in its power to get Liverpool off the 'danger' list.
“We are calling on the Secretary of State for Culture, Karen Bradley, to call a summit meeting of DCMS, Historic England, Liverpool City Council, interested parties and stakeholders to resolve this crisis as a matter of urgency."
SAVE says it is not against developments in the World Heritage Site, but wants to see schemes of high quality that respect the coveted status.
In a DCMS Culture White Paper earlier this year, the Government said it wanted to set a global standard in the stewardship of World Heritage Sites.
It is likely that UNESCO would not remove Liverpool from the list of World Heritage Sites until a development appeared that compromised the universal value of the WHS. Liverpool was granted the status in 2004, putting it alongside sites such as the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Egypt.
Liverpool City Council said UNESCO's recommendation, if implemented, would put hundreds of millions of pounds worth of investment and jobs at risk by sending out the message that Liverpool had “shut up shop and was closed for business”.
Mayor Anderson said he plans to write to the UN body informing it that the city would not be complying with its request.
He said: “Part of the problem that we face is if we go out and say to people: ‘Please come and invest in our city,’ but then say: ‘You can’t put in a planning application for two years’ – then our growth is going to suffer.
“We have a track record of protecting heritage and that speaks for itself. We value the heritage status but we can’t let it stifle the growth of our city. People ... come here for so many reasons – our culture, yes, our buildings, and because we are open and developing.
A council spokesman said: “Liverpool remains open for business and all planning applications will continue to be determined in the usual way in line with national planning policies and guidance.
“We are working with the Government, who make representations on behalf of world heritage sites at the Unesco committee, to look at how best to resolve the situation.”
SAVE said at Unesco’s meeting, still continuing in Istanbul, received a report from officers re-iterating its "serious concerns" about Liverpool’s World Heritage site (WHS), recommending that all major development within the area and buffer zone is stopped before satisfactory measures to eliminate threats to the site are in place.
SAVE said papers published ahead of the meeting noted that Liverpool City Council had not yet stopped the threat from new development on the WHS, and that issues with high rise and mid rise developments within the site are a concern.
The committee states: “Though there is progress, to date the City Council has not yet completed the comprehensive measures to eliminate the threats to the Outstanding Universal Value.
"In particular the issue of the mid-and high-rise buildings has yet to be addressed at Liverpool Waters development project, or on various other development projects within the property [World Heritage Site]"
Henrietta Billings added: “We consider that the Lime Street proposals are exactly the kind of re-development that Unesco are concerned about. It is a major demolition and development scheme in the buffer zone of the WHS.
“World Heritage status was awarded to Liverpool in light of its genuine global significance, and Liverpool City Council signed up to the responsibilities and stewardship that go with this honour. This status is designed to ensure that the quality of major new development is commensurate with its international significance. Liverpool deserves a better quality of heritage led regeneration than is currently proposed.”
A Liverpool City Council spokesman said: “We are pleased that UNESCO recognises that the city council has made progress in addressing concerns related to the World Heritage Site.
"Liverpool Waters is a long-term scheme which is being developed over the next few decades, and we are confident we will be able to address UNESCO’s issues through the planning process.
“The UK Government is seeking clarification regarding the proposed moratorium on development and will be making representations at the Istanbul meeting. All developments within the World Heritage Site and buffer zone are carefully assessed in partnership with stakeholders and Historic England taking into account issues such as density, height, scale and the use of materials, and changes made where necessary.”
The only other European site currently on the At Risk list is Kosovo’s medieval monuments, following the war in 1998.