Liverpool loses its place as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

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The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Wednesday removed Liverpool from its list of World Heritage sites, an extremely rare measure taken due to overdevelopment of this iconic English port of the industrial era, causing the consternation of local elected officials and the British government.

Thirteen delegates from the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, during a video session chaired by China, voted for a downgrading of this port in the north-west of England, classified in 2004, and five voted against, that is to say one vote more than the majority of the two third party 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The sanctuary of the Arabian Oryx, a type of antelope, was withdrawn in 2007 after Oman's decision to reduce its area by 90% for a hydrocarbon exploration project, then two years later the valley of the 'Elbe in Dresden, Germany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.

A food truck in the Port of Liverpool.

Liverpool had been on the list of heritage in danger since 2012.

Photo: Getty Images / Christopher Furlong

Attack on the authenticity and integrity of the site

In question for Liverpool: the redevelopment plans of the port, whose very high buildings and a new football stadium are likely toirreversibly damage heritage, said the UNESCO committee.

We are extremely disappointed with this decision, reacted a government spokesperson. 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..

Liverpool was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, after an ambitious rehabilitation of the seafront and docks following decades of decline.

Two women take pictures of themselves in front of a statue of The Beatles.

The city with a rich musical heritage is also the birthplace of the Beatles.

Photo: AFP / PAUL ELLIS

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 from Liverpool.

The city has been on the list of endangered heritage since 2012, guarantees have been requested on the future of the site. But the development projects continued. The new stadium for Everton Football Club, approved by the government without any public inquiry, is the most recent example of a totally opposite major project to UNESCO's objectives, according to the council.

"A retrograde measure"

Harry Doyle, member of the city council, said he was all the more disappointed by this decision that UNESCO did not come on site.

Our heritage is here for good, he pointed out, defending a relationship symbiotic between this and the redevelopment of the city. It is because we have had development projects in the city that we have been able to invest in our cultural and heritage assets..

On Twitter, the Labor mayoress of the city, Joanne Anderson, announced that she wanted to appeal this downgrading.

Denouncing a decision made halfway around the world by people who don't seem to understand rebirth 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 in dire need of investment, he stressed, believing that the places like Liverpool shouldn't be faced with the binary choice between keeping its heritage status and help communities left behind.

A statue in the port of Liverpool.

UNESCO considers that the authenticity and integrity of the Port of Liverpool has been achieved.

Photo: Getty Images / Christopher Furlong

For Allan Ellis, however, a British tourist interviewed by AFP, it is not so important : people don't come here for UNESCO, but for the Beatles and the Titanic, of which Liverpool was the home port.

Several countries including Australia, including the Great Barrier Reef is also threatened with downgrading, spoke out against the removal of Liverpool from the list, believing that it would be a measure radical in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic.

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.


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