I must confess that I greeted the news that Unesco and its World Heritage Committee (yawn) were to review Liverpool’s World Heritage Status with some glee.
The badge, from what I can tell, has brought little if any benefit to the city, and has most certainly cost Liverpool in terms of jobs, growth and investment.
You may think, as many do, that the World Heritage Site applies only to the waterfront. You would be mistaken. The WHS also has what is known as a buffer zone attached to it, and developments as far away as the Ropewalks area of the city have been impacted upon because of this vanity badge.
Liverpool’s Three Graces are rightly recognised as architectural wonders, and would be a beautiful addition to any landscape. However, though it is important that we celebrate the past, it is even more critical that we don’t live in it.
A fine modern museum has been added to the cultural waterfront offer. Peel have plans to invest billions of pounds regenerating dockland that has been left derelict for decades. And a city that has been over reliant on public subsidy for far too long is desperate to create an enterprise zone that does what it says on the tin!
If losing World Heritage Status is the price that has to be paid to meet those objectives, so be it. For me, the status has simply acted as a barrier to regeneration, given an already over-powerful heritage lobby a nuclear button to press when it suited them, and sent potential investors dashing towards alternative opportunities.
The argument that this Unesco tag has boosted our tourism offer just doesn’t, forgive the pun, hold water. Liverpool’s waterfront was famous long before Unesco was even heard of. The Beatles, football and the Capital of Culture year are what have driven Liverpool as a destination city. Be honest, have you ever heard any visitor to Liverpool say they are in town because of Unesco?
World Heritage Status is a nice claim to fame – but economically and culturally it’s as useful as a chocolate tea pot.