26 Jul 2017
Posted By: Caroline Sandes
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ICOMOS-UK notes with considerable concern that development projects in and around the old docks in Liverpool, mostly connected with the Liverpool Waters scheme, continue to be approved by the City Council in spite of concerns expressed by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee over the past 11 years and the inclusion of the property on the World Heritage List in Danger in 2012.

This year, the Committee’s recommendations concluded by saying that it would consider the deletion of Liverpool Mercantile Maritime City  from the World Heritage List at its 42nd session next year if the State Party did not:

  • Reverse course and stop the granting of planning permissions which have a negative impact on the OUV of the property,
  • Provide substantive commitments to limitation on the quantity, location and size of allowable built form,
  • Link the strategic city development vision to a regulatory planning document,
  • Submit, lastly, a Desired State of Conservation for Removal (DSOCR) and corrective measures in a form that might be considered for adoption by the Committee next year.

Liverpool was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 2004 as a major port city and trading centre which had global reach in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was a pioneer in the development of modern dock technology, transport systems and port management and was a major port for the mass movement of people from northern Europe to America.  Almost immediately, in 2006, the World Heritage site was the subject of a State of Conservation report to the World Heritage Committee because of development proposals potentially impacting on the OUV. Since then the Committee has considered these issues in Liverpool every year apart from 2010.

The acquisition of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company land by development company Peel Holdings in 2005 went ahead without any specific protective measures being put in place for the World Heritage Site. The situation was further exacerbated in 2012 when part of the World Heritage property was made into an Enterprise Zone which alters the impact of planning controls.

Once the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2012, the Government was requested to define a DSOCR from the List in Danger. This sets out what state the property needs to attain in order that it can be removed from the List in Danger. So far, no satisfactory DSOCR has been provided and the challenge now for the UK Government is to consider whether it is possible to reconcile the requirements of the UK planning system with the concerns of the Committee, in a way that might be acceptable to all parties locally and that could be presented to next year’s meeting of the Committee.

Photo: Geoff Mason

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