On Wednesday 21 July, the very week we were filming ‘Let Her Witness It’ and ‘2600’, Liverpool made international headlines when UNESCO announced the city was to be stripped of its World Heritage status, citing overdevelopment along the waterfront which constituted an “irreversible loss”. The official UNESCO press release speaks in rather ignominious terms of Liverpool being “deleted” from the World Heritage List but it also points out that in 2012, just eight years after “Liverpool’s historic centre and docklands were inscribed for bearing witness to the development of one of the world’s major trading centres in the 18th and 19th centuries”, the city was added to the List of World Heritage in Danger as rapid development along the Mersey gathered pace.
A particularly contentious project is the new stadium for Everton Football Club, planned at Bramley Moore Dock, a short distance north from the city centre waterfront landmarks. Five days after the UNESCO announcement, Everton formally took possession of the site, where the planned stadium will have a capacity of over 50,000.
It’s a difficult issue. Some argue that a city cannot stand still, and that the employment and regeneration which redevelopment – such as that proposed by Everton – can bring is better than the alternative, particularly in a city which suffered gravely from industrial decline and deprivation. But others, of course, fear for the protection of historic landmarks and landscapes, and more fundamentally, perhaps, for the erosion of the distinct identity of the place. The issues, and UNESCO’s decision, were explored in detail in an excellent piece on The Conversation by Paul Williams, Professor and Ambassador for the Heseltine Institute at the University of Liverpool.