Liverpool must not lose its Heritage status
‘UNESCO states that the city will lose its status in 2018 if policies don’t change
LIVERPOOL’S designation in 2004 as a World Heritage Site was a triumph not just for Scousers, but for the UK as a whole. From the 1770s until the jet replaced the ocean liner, this was England’s second city and it has architecture to match. Even today, the commercial centre of Liverpool, with its handsome banks and insurance buildings, is a regular film-makers’ stand-in for London and New York.
However, it was not long ago that the city was so down the Holiday Inn closed. That was when the militant mayor Derek Hatton was threatening to sell the Old Masters off the Walker Gallery walls and Margaret Thatcher stepped in to make six of Liver- pool’s collections into national museums —putting the city on a par with London and Edinburgh. Michael Heseltine poured funds into regeneration as had Labour’s Peter Shore before him. More recently, the Heritage Lottery Fund has been doing its bit, too.
The handsome Georgian streets near the two great cathedrals have been repaired and revived, the mighty Albert Dock reinvented, the Ropewalks transformed and Sefton Park and Prince’s Park revived. Numerous prize architectural landmarks have been restored, including Norman Shaw’s Albion House, the Florence Institute, the Greek Orthodox Church, the 1930s Air Terminal, the new Titanic Hotel (in a dockside warehouse) and John Wood’s Town Hall (COUNTRY LIFE,
August 3, 2016). All this was crowned by the massive billion-pound investment of the Grosvenor Estate in Liverpool One. Even though it opened as recession struck in 2008, it was fully let and continues to thrive.
Meanwhile, Eric Pickles’ decision to save the 400 houses of the Welsh Streets, now being restored as rental properties for families, has halted for the present the needless and scandalous clearance of terraces and the cruel evictions of families from their lifelong homes. Some of the clearances— around Anfield Stadium and along Edge Lane—were for a new speedway to the airport, which never happened.
Now, just as Liverpool turns the corner and all this investment bears fruit, the city is threatened with loss of its World Heritage status. This is principally because of the city’s embrace of high-rises, notably the towers of Liverpool Waters in the northern docks and grim student-housing towers near Lime Street Station and the neo-classical St George’s Hall.
It’s the worse because the team of enlightened planners that won the World Heritage status have been sidelined and driven out. UNESCO states that the city will lose its status in 2018 if policies don’t change. This needs to be a wake-up call for the DCMS. In France, Bordeaux has set the world an example of how World Heritage status can rejuvenate a great port city. This is a case in which Karen Bradley, the Culture Secretary, has to show she’s feisty not feckless.