Becominga WHS was a way in which stakeholders could showcase to the world thatLiverpool was once a global city, and thus could become one again due to itsdynamic and innovative mindset. The city’s tradition of innovative developmentwas one reason for its nomination. As stipulated, Liverpool’s success was dueto the port’s ‘determination to keep ahead of its international competitors inthe development and deployment of innovative technology’, it had always been a citywhich prides itself on ideas and change (LOCUS Consulting Ltd, 2017, 86). Furthermore,in its statement of significance, there is reference to the site being a’complete and integral urban landscape’ (LCC,2003, 25). However, the ICOMOS Advisory Body report in 2004 omitted anymention of it being a ‘urban landscape’ in its draft wording for the OUVstatement.
As Rodwell (2015, 35) stipulates, this was a ‘serious oversight’ asthis wording was one of the factors which is contributing to the currentdissonance between UNESCO and principle stakeholders in the city. The ICOMOS (2004,130) report also highlighted that not only was there a new construction beingplanned in the centre of the port area next to the existing historical buildings,but also that LCC was in the process of preparing a tall buildings policy, thusindicating the need to ‘vigilantly monitor the development’. The fact that evenbefore the city was given WH status, ICOMOS was already calling for the need to’vigilantly monitor’ the developments highlights the growing concern byheritage officials and the inevitable clash in visions for the future of thecity by ICOMOS, UNESCO and principle stakeholders. As Pendlebury et al. (2009,354) stipulate, at the time of Liverpool nomination it was ‘apparent… thatextensive development was both anticipated and seen as desirable by the variousUK authorities’, therefore it should not have been alarming for UNESCO whendevelopments began to happen. Nevertheless,despite knowing that the city was in the process of regeneration and that planswere being made for new developments, the importance of Liverpool’s builtheritage and historical role was recognised in 2004 by UNESCO. The designationcovers six areas, these being the Pier Head, the Albert Dock Conservation Area,the Stanley Dock Conservation Area, Castle Street/Dale Street/ Old StreetCommercial Centre, William Brown Street Cultural Quarter and Lower Duke Street(figure 1). It was granted status based on it being ‘the supreme example of acommercial port at the time of Britain’s greatest global influence’ and wasinscribed on the list on the basis of criteria ii, iii and iv (ICOMOS, 2004,130).
As already indicated, there is no mention of the ‘urban landscape’within the OUV. Instead, the basis is on the fact that the city was a ‘majorcentre generating innovative technologies and methods in dock construction andport management’ (ii), the fact that the city and the port are a ‘exceptionaltestimony to the development of maritime mercantile culture’ (iii) and that itis a ‘outstanding example of a world mercantile port city (iv). It is thisomission of the ‘urban landscape’ which is currently causing division amongstthe many stakeholders. However, it is important to remember that one of theconditions on Liverpool’s WHS, imposed at the time of inscription, is that ‘theheight of any new construction in the WHS should not exceed that of structuresin the immediate surroundings’, as the landscape was deemed as being ofimportance to the OUV of the site.Figure 1 First Mission, 2006 Concernregarding development and regeneration was brought to the attention of UNESCOin 2006. The ‘impact on the World Heritage property’ of the Museum of Liverpoolbuilding on the Pier Head and three new buildings (i.e.
Mann Island Project)that were being planned on the waterfront next to the Three Graces led to thefirst mission in 2006. Despite the concern of these developments and thepotential impact on the landscape and to the OUV of Liverpool’s WHS, themission concluded that the Museum of Liverpool and the Mann Island Project,were not an imminent threat to the OUV and integrity of the site (WHC, 2006).However, the report foresaw potential threats to the site and that the ‘worldheritage perspective’ had not been communicated and ‘sold’ to stakeholders,thus indicating that the WH title was not being used to the full advantage bylocal stakeholders managing the site (WHC, 2006).
This is reflected by JonathanBrown who observed that even now, the most prominent site of its status isfound on a burger van, which is a sign of the status being used to economicallybenefit the local community even if they themselves do not understand the OUVof the site (appendix 1). The report alsoconcluded that LCC should ‘improve its methods’ for the management, and shouldeven introduce a stricter regime of planning control to address the height ofnew buildings (WHC, 2006). Thisreport was significant as it did not coincide with local opinions of thoseliving in the city, again highlighting the lack of communication between local stakeholdersand UNESCO.
Furthermore, as Rodwell (2014, 27) highlights, the report omitted any reference to the location of thedevelopments. It also neglected to comment critically on the ‘post-inscriptionhigh-rise waterfront developments in the Prince’s Dock area of the bufferzone’, which is significant as it contradicts the subsequent condemnation ofthe Liverpool Waters project (Rodwell, 2014, 27-28). Asa result of this mission, LCC published a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD)in 2009 to help provide guidance for development and conservation in the WHSand Buffer Zone (LCC, 2009, 3).
This document was created in order to ‘provide guidance forprotecting and enhancing’ the OUV of the WHS, whilst ‘encouraging investmentand development’, which would secure a ‘healthy economy and supportsregeneration’ (LCC, 2009, 1). Thisdocument was not only published to help stakeholders better manage the site,but to also showcase to UNESCO that the council was encouraging investment anddevelopment to help the city’s economy to grow and develop. The documentprovided detailed analysis and guidance on areas across the WHS and Buffer Zone.Regarding the height of new buildings, the SPD states that LCC should considerit important to ‘manage the height’ of new development and that suchdevelopment should not ‘adversely affect the character’ of the WHS (LCC,2009, 70). Liverpool Waters Issues concerning management were brought to theconcern of UNESCO again with the proposal of Liverpool Waters, also known as ‘Shanghai-Liverpool’in recognition of its twin city status in 1999, by Peel Holdings (Rodwell,2015, 40). In 2005 Peel Holdings acquired the Mersey Docksand Harbour Company and large sites in Liverpool’s North Docks and around the’Float’ dock system in Birkenhead (Shaw and Sykes,2015, 63).
Following this, in 2007 the company launched its £5.5 billioninvestment program for Liverpool Waters which was presented as a long-termstrategy, with many of its ‘aspirations’ being ‘dependent on internationalinvestment’ (Shaw and Sykes, 2015, 63). This indicates that the initial concernwas not the protection of heritage, but that of attracting internationalinvestors, to promote the city to the world again. This scheme has been reported as the UK’s largest current developmentproposal and the largest scheme considered anywhere affecting a WHS (Rodwell,2015, 39). The ‘scale, density, height and design’, ofthe buildings in the initial proposal caused local and international concernregarding how it would impact the skyline and Waterfront (Shaw and Sykes, 2015,63).
Liverpool Waters is the ‘redevelopmentof 60 hectares of historic docklands’, which is envisioned to create a’world-class, mixed-use waterfront quarter’ (Liverpool Waters, 2014, 10). Thisregeneration scheme received outline planning permission in 2013 for over ‘315,000sq.m. of quality office space, 53,000 sq.m.
of hotel and conference facilities,a new cruise liner terminal plus many more amenities including retail andleisure facilities and parking’ (Liverpool Waters, 2014, 41). This regenerationproject is intended to promote the city back to a world class status, with themain tower called the ‘Shanghai Tower’. As Attademo (2013, 165) notes, thesignificance of this name will attract new investors in the ‘attempt to securethe new image of the city’, highlighting that heritage and protecting the OUVof the site was not the main concern for Peel Holdings. The intention is tobring investment and life back into the city, allowing it to compete with othercities in the UK and around the world. Organisationssuch as English Heritage and the Commission forArchitecture and the Built Environment (CABE) have objected to some aspects ofthe scheme, particularly the parts concerning tall buildings. In areport commissioned by English Heritage in 2011 they warned that the newbuildings would have a negative impact on the OUV of the site (Bond, 2011).Furthermore, in a statement they indicated that the setting of some of the’most significant historic buildings’, would be ‘severely compromised’ and thatthe city’s ‘historic urban landscape will bepermanently unbalanced’ (Moore, May 2012).
However, it is important toremember that ‘urban landscape’ was omitted from the justification for the OUVof the site, therefore it should not affect this. CABE have commented that theplan is ‘generic and vague’, (Brown, March 2013)suggesting that it will not promote and create aunique identity for Liverpool. The scheme is even dividing localopinion.
As Shaw and Sykes (2015, 64) highlight, an increasing number ofresidents living in converted warehouses adjacent to Liverpool Waters are’growing concerned’ that the new developments will ‘limit their views to thewaterfront’. Dueto the scale of the project, and tensions between stakeholders, a secondmission (influenced by the Historic Urban Landscape approach) was sent toLiverpool in 2011. The recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape wasadopted on 10 November 2011 by UNESCO’s General Conference. This approachrecognises the fact that cities are continually growing with historic layeringbeing the key driver to this approach (figure 2). Within the report, the stateparty is asked to ‘to ensure’ that Liverpool Waters proposals are ‘notapproved, as failure to do so could lead to consideration of loss of theOutstanding Universal Value of the property’ (WHC, 2011, 5).
However, this isproblematic to ask of a city which encourages regeneration. This report alsoaddresses the developments which were previously brought to attention in thefirst mission. It stated that these developments were ‘positive’, highlightingthe fact that regeneration is not necessarily a bad thing (WHC, 2011, 2). Infact, the Museum of Liverpool has now won many awards, including the highlyacclaimed Council ofEurope Museum Prize for 2013 (Museum of Liverpool, 2018). Overall, the report concluded that LiverpoolWaters ‘would irreversibly damage the attributes of OUV and conditions ofintegrity of the property’, thus leading to Liverpool’s WHS being placed on theList of World Heritage in Danger in 2012 (WHC, 2011, 15).