A Statement from World Heritage UK on the delisting of Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City World Heritage Site

July 22, 2021 Published by Beth Thomas

World Heritage UK (WHUK) deeply regrets the decision by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC) to delist Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City from the list of inscribed World Heritage Sites (WHS). We believe this action will be damaging to the credibility of the World Heritage sector in the UK and elsewhere.

Liverpool is a key part of our island story. It is globally recognised as one of the world’s major trading centres in the 18th and 19th centuries, and a pioneer in the development of modern dock technology, transport systems and port management. It now becomes only the third WHS to be delisted in the 49 years of the World Heritage Convention. Since its inscription in 2004, Liverpool made substantial progress in protecting the fabric of its World Heritage Site and its built heritage; across the city only 2.5% of listed buildings are now at risk, down from 13% in 2000, and high standards of planning and heritage conservation have been upheld in the continued management of the WHS. World Heritage status has made a substantial contribution to conservation and regeneration of the city centre. Unfortunately, this remarkable achievement did not convince the members of the WHC. Their major concern was the possible development of the derelict North Docks, with its non-implemented outline planning permission for a large speculative development and a proposed new football stadium.

WHUK wrote to UNESCO prior to this year’s WHC meeting suggesting alternative approaches such as a boundary amendment that might have led to a postponement of deletion, and a further opportunity for discussions. The inability of all interested parties to reach a compromise and consider more carefully a balancing of conservation and development is disappointing. The loss of Liverpool from the World Heritage List is a sad day for the UK and our valued collection of cultural and natural World Heritage Sites.

Looking forward to ensure continued good management of the UK’s outstanding World Heritage collection, WHUK urges the Government and other stakeholders to support the development of a National Strategy and Vision for the UK’s World Heritage Sites as set out in WHUK’s recent Review of the Future of World Heritage in the UK and to use this moment as a learning opportunity for future improvement.