Cities News UNESCO

Famous Liverpool expert explains why Liverpool should not lose its UNESCO World Heritage status

Liverpool UNESCO view
Written by Henry McDonald

The famous Liverpool expert and watcher, Professor Michael Parkinson CBE spoke to me recently for Episode Five and since then we had this quick catch up chat because of Liverpool’s threatened UNESCO status.

Prof. Parkinson is the author of more than one hundred books, articles and major reports. In 1985, he wrote ‘Liverpool on the Brink’ and in 2019, he published the sequel ‘Liverpool Beyond the Brink: The Remaking of a Post Imperial City.’ A significant part of his career has been dedicated to demonstrating how Liverpool has changed for the better. So how does he feel about the threatened UNESCO World Heritage site status deletion?

Famous Liverpool expert, Prof. Michael Parkinson C.B.E.

“UNESCO at the end of June published this recommendation that Liverpool be taken off the World Heritage Site List. At a meeting in July in China, 21 UNESCO ambassadors will then decide whether to ratify the recommendation to delete Liverpool, in which case it loses status, or whether it can be given a deferral. Liverpool wants UNESCO to defer the decision to come and look again at the city, how much we’ve done. I think there’s really a big risk that UNESCO will say no, you’re off the list.

So this is the culmination of several years of conversation. And we are now in the last chance saloon. It is really a very big moment for the city.” Professor Michael Parkinson CBE stated in his June 2021 catch-up interview with me, Henry McDonald.

How much is this to do with the new build that’s happening down on the riverfront, principally the new Everton stadium?

According to Professor Parkinson CBE, “It’s all to do with the North Liverpool docks, which had been derelict for 60 years and when nothing has gone on, you’ve got two issues. One is the plans of Peel Holdings to develop local waters, offices and residential- that argument’s been going on for several years, UNESCO don’t like it, we do.

The recent thing is Everton Football Stadium. They are planning permission and government have approved the planning decision to move from Goodison and put a brand-new state of the art football stadium on Bramley-Moore Dock, which is at the far end of the site, currently derelict and fronting next to a sewage treatment plant. And UNESCO has now said we’ve worried about these tall buildings and densities for years. Everton, they say, is the final straw. And so there’s now a risk we lose the status.”

Critics of UNESCO will say, well hold on a minute. Would you just prefer this part of the city to lie derelict and empty?

“This is absolutely it. The problem for UNESCO is it can handle the monuments and sites- well, they’re not real living cities. Liverpool is a real living city. It had a terrible collapse 30 years ago, it’s had a very good renaissance. It isn’t completed yet. The North docks are the worst part of the city, North Liverpool is the worst part of the city. I think Liverpool should say, we have done a huge amount right across the rest of the world heritage site to invest over 750 million pounds. We take it seriously. We have done a great deal. Secondly, we don’t want to lose the status, it’s valuable and valued.

Thirdly, we do have to have development in the near North docks. We think we can do this in a way that does not threaten the heritage status. So please, in July, don’t confirm the decision. Come to Liverpool. See what we’re doing. See what we’ve done. See what we plan to do and let’s have a grown-up conversation so that we can have our development and bring prosperity to people. We can invest in our heritage, modernise it, and bring growth. And you can feel confident that we have respected what you call the outstanding universal value.” the famous Liverpool expert, Professor Michael Parkinson concluded.

About the author

Henry McDonald

Investigative journalist and media commentator, who has worked at The Guardian and its sister title, The Observer for over two decades, where he was at the centre of the digital journalism revolution, and also covered Changing Streams and Inside Connections for The Guardian. He has written and worked for a number of international media titles, which includes – The Spectator, GQ, The Sunday Times, The Irish News, Evening Press, Dublin, The Belfast Telegraph, Irish Echo, New York.

Currently, McDonald is a regular contributor on BBC Radio Scotland discussing Northern Ireland affairs. He has participated in two separate podcasts for the Time of Our Lives programme, fronted by the highly-regarded, David Aaronovitch, which focused on recent violence in Ulster loyalist areas and the departure of Arlene Foster as Democratic Unionist leader and First Minister of Northern Ireland. The podcast is part of The Times Radio.

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