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Liverpool is no longer on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, due to overdevelopment of this emblematic English port of the industrial era. A decision which caused the consternation of local elected officials and the British government.
Unesco downgrades Liverpool. The UN agency withdrew, Wednesday, July 21, the city that borders the Mersey from its list of classified sites.
Thirteen delegates from Unesco’s World Heritage Committee, whose current video session is chaired by China, voted for a downgrading of this port in the north-west of England, classified in 2004, and five against, that is, one vote more than the two-thirds majority required to downgrade a site.
Liverpool thus becomes the third site to undergo this extremely rare measure. Only two sites had previously been removed from this list, which has existed since 1972.
The sanctuary of the Arabian Oryx, a type of antelope, was withdrawn in 2007 after Oman’s decision to reduce its area by 90% for a hydrocarbon exploration project, then two years later the valley of the ‘Elbe in Dresden (Germany) due to a road bridge construction project.
“Distinctiveness and unique spirit” in 2004
In question for Liverpool: the redevelopment plans of the port, whose very high buildings and a new football stadium risk “irreversibly damaging” its heritage, said the Unesco committee.
Liverpool was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, after an ambitious rehabilitation of the seafront and docks following decades of decline.
The port of departure for millions of Irish and British migrants as well as African slaves, the city with a rich musical heritage is also the birthplace of the Beatles. A story that forged what Unesco considered to be the “distinctiveness and uniqueness” of Liverpool.
However, the International Council of Monuments and Sites, which advises Unesco, had already “asked on several occasions” to the British government to provide more solid guarantees concerning the future of the city, which appeared since 2012 on the list. heritage in danger.
“Difficult to understand” this decision
But the development projects continued, to the point of making it lose its authenticity. The new stadium for the Everton football club – approved by the government without any public inquiry – is “the most recent example of a major project totally contrary” to Unesco’s objectives, the council added.
“We are extremely disappointed with this decision,” a government spokesman reacted on Wednesday morning. “We believe that Liverpool still deserves its World Heritage status given the important role the docks have played in history and the city more broadly.”
In a video posted on Twitter, the Labor mayor of the city, Joanne Anderson, also “disappointed”, explains having “difficulty understanding how Unesco can prefer that we have empty docks rather than the Everton stadium” and announces that it wants to appeal this downgrading.
“Communities that need investments”
Denouncing a “decision taken on the other side of the world by people who do not seem to understand the renaissance” that the city has experienced in recent years, the leader of the Liverpool region, Steve Rotheram, sees it as a “retrograde measure , which does not reflect the reality on the ground “.
“Many of the sites cited by Unesco are in communities that are in dire need of investment,” he said, believing that “places like Liverpool should not be faced with the binary choice between keeping their status or heritage “and help” communities left behind “.
Several countries including Australia, including the Great Barrier Reef is also threatened with decommissioning, had spoken out against the removal of Liverpool from the list, believing that it would be a “radical” measure in the midst of a pandemic of Covid-19. Brazil, Hungary and Nigeria have requested that the decision be postponed for a year, to give more time to the new city council elected in May.
The prestigious World Heritage label is a boon to tourism and encourages governments to protect their cultural or environmental treasures. But the addition is not permanent, and these sites can also be stripped of their status or be warned that they are in danger.