Rather than thinking Liverpool has been given a stay of execution, delegates more or less concluded that, within a year, the city will lose its title.
THEY might be thinking in Liverpool that the city’s World Heritage Status is more or less safe. But ask people in Korea, the Philippines, Jamaica, Portugal, Poland and Turkey, and they say we are on the home straight to be stripped of the prestigious accolade.
A meeting of Unesco’s World Heritage Committee, currently taking place in Poland, threw the spotlight on Liverpool this week, and it made grim listening.
Rather than thinking Liverpool has been given a stay of execution, delegates from a number of countries more or less concluded that, within a year, the city will lose its title.
Given the fact that controversial skyscrapers have already been given the go-ahead in and around the WHS buffer zone, as well as at Princes Dock, the odds of Liverpool remaining a member of the global cultural club seem to be numbered. Throw in a possible EFC/Commonwealth Games stadium, and we might as well surrender the title today.
In Krakow there was an atmosphere of restrained anger and frustration, when the city’s WHS status came up for discussion. It was as though Liverpool was an out-of-control delinquent.
An official from the Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) delivered what was tantamount to a plea for mercy on the Mersey.
There were comforting words that the city council, the DCMS (known as the state party) and Peel, will be getting together to draw up details of how the issues, mainly over Peel’s Liverpool Waters scheme, will be managed to help ensure the so-called Outstanding Universal Value of the WHS is preserved.
The Whitehall civil servant mentioned that even the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Malcolm Kennedy, had travelled to Krakow to demonstrate the city’s eagerness to resolve the fact that the city’s WHS has been placed on a list of sites in danger register. There was even an invitation for the World Heritage Committee to travel to Liverpool to see what was being done.
The city council, the DCMS and Peel have been given until February to come up with the plan to convince Unesco that it can properly preserve and protect the World Heritage Site, with the prospect of deletion from the list soon as as next July if not enough is being done.
Having heard the DCMS official deliver reassuring words, the committee voted without dissent to keep Liverpool on the at-risk register, while allowing until February to come up with an acceptable solution.
There are countries around the world queuing up, desperately eager to be given what is the cultural equivalent of Olympic Gold and Liverpool may well soon create a vacancy.
Don’t take our word for it, listen, if you have the stomach for it, to the 30 minute debate as Liverpool is torn apart on the world stage. The problem is Liverpool is a dynamic, growing city and much of the world heritage site spans derelict dockland areas that helped Liverpool grow into the greatest port in the British Empire.
The trick is to regenerate Liverpool while at the same time honouring and respecting its maritime glory days.
Cultural advisers Icomos said the World Heritage Site faces strong challenges, particularly over the way permission has continued to be granted, by the council, for high buildings.
Portugal’s delegation said it was pained at the way the Liverpool issue had been going on since 2012 when it was first added to the danger list.
“Are we already in countdown mode for deletion at our next session in 2018,” asked Portugal.
Lebanon said as far as Liverpool is concerned, the committee is probably in a situation which is irreversible.
Finland said: “Is there any hope for this site in the future.”
Some of the strongest words came from the Philippines delegation saying the committee needed to reach closure on Liverpool to send a resolute message to the state party.
“I just don’t see a solution at the moment,” said the Polish delegate.
The committee decided to keep Liverpool on the danger list to enable talks to continue.
The city council tweeted after the decision: “Liverpool welcomes decision by Unesco to further investigate how the city is managing its WHS status.
However there are those in the city who think otherwise.
I live on the Docks and ''you live on a World Heritage site'' said no-one EVER - it is a flag for the cultural elite to wave #useless
— Carolyn Hughes (@CarolynPR) 5 July 2017
It is understood there were be a de-briefing meeting on what happened in Poland when the Liverpool delegation get back.
Liverpool now has until February 1, 2018 to produce a report to convince Unesco it can meet demands to conserve the world heritage site, with a view to deletion from the list next July if it fails.