Liverpool loses UNESCO World Heritage Site designation: An example of tough choices for cash strapped governments
With the denouement of approval of the conversion of the Bramley-Moore Dock into a site for the new Everton football stadium, UNESCO has pulled the designation of Liverpool's maritime heritage as a World Heritage Site, because of the coming loss of integrity of these historic resources as an ensemble.
I wrote about Liverpool's urban regeneration program ("LIVERPOOL REGENERATION AS A PROCESS FOR REGAINING RELEVANCE AT THE REGIONAL, NATIONAL, AND GLOBAL SCALES") as part of the series of articles related to an EU National Institutes of Culture Washington chapter program in Baltimore (2013/2014).
And in 2018, I was able to attend the International Place Branding Event in Liverpool, in part with the support of blog readers, friends and acquaintances--THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
Which gave me the too brief opportunity to see in person what I wrote about, and also a chance to see in person what I missed when writing the original piece.
One was the big pedestrian district emanating from the train station, and with the extension provided by the new build Liverpool One shopping center, extends all the way to the waterfront.
Another was the level of dereliction of many of the docks outside of the core section of the waterfront, anchored by Albert Dock, home to multiple museums. The super cool Titanic Hotel where the conference was held, is on Stanley Dock, and the buildings bracketing the enclosed dock were in the process of regeneration.
But most of the nearby docks are not. And the area beyond the docks is seriously disinvested.
In Liverpool, their rapid transit system, Merseyrail, is railroad-based. It's pretty awesome and because of its level of integration, it's the only transit system outside of London that wasn't privatized in the British government's orgasm of privatization. (Buses are still privatized in Liverpool.)
PH Hanson shows the Merseyrail train line, with the Stanley Dock on the other side of the line. To the left, on the other side of the tracks, is the large Bonded Warehouse which was being renovated when I was there.
To the right, across the water and not visible, is the Titanic Hotel. To the right of the Hotel is the Bramley-Moore Dock. In the foreground is the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Park
Sandhills is the closest rail station to the current soccer stadiums in Anfield and Everton, which are served with game day special bus services.
One of my thoughts then was an infill rail station between Sandhills and Moorhills stations, to serve the dock area from a closer-in station.
It would be all the more important to do, with the construction of a new stadium for Everton.
I would aim to make this the utmost priority in association with the construction of the new stadium, were I making such decisions.
It's not really "just for the team" as they have "only" 19 home matches guaranteed (although this is 10 more than for US NFL teams) but to energize the revitalization opportunities on this side of the Liverpool waterfront. There are great physical assets and better transit options would open them up.
(Back in the day, there was an elevated railway that served all the docks, the Liverpool Overhead Railway. It shut down in 1955.)
The problem for Liverpool is that as the Empire shrunk and shifted east, Liverpool's western-focused port was supplanted.
Later, changes in maritime shipping practices led to a shifting of shipping to parts of the region more workable for large scale container-based shipping.
Liverpool, like many of the old industrial cities in Northern England, is extremely impoverished. This is only accentuated by the Conservative government's centralization, austerity program resulting in constant reductions in local government funding along with an increase in responsibilities, and anti-local government practices when the governments aren't run by the Conservatives.
Liverpool has lost about 2/3 of its budget because of decisions by the Conservatives. This makes the city and its leaders and stakeholders financially desperate.
Liverpool is one of the case studies that shaped the concept of what I now call "Transformational Projects Action Planning" ("Why can't the "Bilbao Effect" be reproduced? | Bilbao as an example of Transformational Projects Action Planning"), where a set of visionary and audacious projects is used to push improvement forward in a concerted way:
The six components of a successful broad ranging revitalization program.
- A commitment to the development and production of a broad, comprehensive, visionary, and detailed revitalization plan/s
- the creation of innovative and successful implementation organizations, with representatives from the public sector and private firms, to carry out the program. Typically, the organizations have some distance from the local government so that the plan and program aren't subject to the vicissitudes of changing political administrations, parties and representatives
- strong accountability mechanisms that ensure that the critical distance provided by semi-independent implementation organizations isn't taken advantage of in terms of deleterious actions
- funding to realize the plan, usually a combination of local, regional, state, and national sources, and in Europe, "structural adjustment" and other programmatic funding from the European Regional Development Fund and related programs is also available
- integrated branding and marketing programs to support the realization of the plan
- flexibility and a willingness to take advantage of serendipitous events and opportunities and integrate new projects into the overall planning and implementation framework.
For Liverpool there were three planning elements that were audacious, not necessarily in this order:
Liverpool's world heritage site officially stretches from Albert Dock, which has the largest collection of Grade I listed buildings in the UK, along the Pier Head and up to Stanley Dock. It takes in the elegant Edwardian "three graces": the Royal Liver, Cunard and Port of Liverpool buildings, which have defined the view from the Mersey for almost a century.
Most recently, it is the agreement to build a new stadium on the Bramley-Moore Docks for the Everton soccer team ("Everton’s plan for new stadium on Bramley-Moore Dock receives government approval," Independent).
Despite the fact that I am a hard core historic preservationist, I do think that Liverpool was forced to make a difficult choice, given the city's desperate need for both economic development and revenue, and to be fair to Everton in terms of helping it to maximize its opportunities vis a vis its competition with the Liverpool Football Club, which is one of the most successful teams in the English Premier League.
Mayor Joanne Anderson, who was elected in May, has expressed her disappointment at the decision and raised concerns about how it was arrived at.She said: "I’m hugely disappointed and concerned by this decision to delete Liverpool’s World Heritage status, which comes a decade after UNESCO last visited the city to see it with their own eyes.“Our World Heritage site has never been in better condition having benefitted from hundreds of millions of pounds of investment across dozens of listed buildings and the public realm. “We will be working with Government to examine whether we can appeal but, whatever happens, Liverpool will always be a World Heritage city.We have a stunning waterfront and incredible built heritage that is the envy of other cities.
Apparently Stonehenge is in danger of losing its UNESCO designation ("Why could Stonehenge be stripped of world heritage site status?," Guardian) because of a planned road project.