Liverpool, in the United Kingdom, has been removed from the Unesco list of World Heritage sites.
Earlier this week, the United Nations’ culture organisation’s World Heritage Committee voted in a secret ballot to “delete” the designation due to developments in the city centre and on its historic River Mersey waterfront.
The heritage label gives historic sites access to UN conservation funding as well as featuring in tourist guidebooks across the world.
The committee said projects, including a planned $930-million stadium for local football club Everton at Bramley-Moore Dock and the 60ha Liverpool Waters development, had caused “irreversible loss of attributes conveying the outstanding universal value of the property”.
Critics of the decision to remove Liverpool, only the third site to be removed from the prestigious list, say it represented a narrow “binary choice” between heritage and regeneration, and should be a question of quality.
The city’s historic centre and docklands were awarded the status for bearing witness to the development of one of the world’s major trading centres in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The site also illustrated pioneering developments in modern dock technology, transport systems and port management.
The Maritime Mercantile City was added to the World Heritage List in 2004 and to the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2012, prompted by concerns about the proposed development of Liverpool Waters.
The $9.3-billion project, delivering 1.8 million square metres of mixed-use development floor space along 2km of the banks of the River Mersey, has since gone ahead, along with other developments both inside the site and in its buffer zone.
“The committee considers that these constructions are detrimental to the site’s authenticity and integrity,” a Unesco spokesperson said.
Peel L&P’s director of development Chris Capes, who is overseeing the Liverpool Waters masterplan, said the decision to remove Liverpool from its list was very disappointing, “particularly given the considerable investment that the city has put into protecting and improving its heritage sites in recent years”.
“Without the World Heritage Site status, however, Liverpool’s rich history remains and Pier Head, the ‘Three Graces’ and the city’s many other fantastic historical assets will continue to attract visitors in their millions,” Capes said.
“Regeneration for this part of the city is vital and, like our partners across the city region, we are focused on delivering it—creating new homes, commercial space, amenities, public realm, leisure facilities and key infrastructure on previously disused brownfield land.
“We will show the world that regeneration and the protection of Liverpool’s heritage can happen together.”
The two places previously been stripped of World Heritage status were Dresden in Germany, for building a massive bridge beside a treasured town centre; and Oman’s Arabian Oryx Sanctuary, for slashing the size of its protected area by 90 per cent.
Earlier this year, an expert group of the United Nations cultural agency recommended that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef be added to the list of World Heritage sites.
Unesco’s committee said the world’s most extensive coral reef system should be added to the list because of the impact of climate change, saying it had noted the worrying outlook for the tourist attraction as early as 2015.
A study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society Journal late last year found half the reef’s corals had died during the past 25 years.