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Liverpool World Heritage Site: We Can Work It Out

Liverpool City Council has recently announced that it is reviewing the boundary of the Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City World Heritage Site (WHS) to include a number of new areas including the docks to the south of the city, Chinatown, Rodney Street and Hope Street.

Jack Haw, an Associate Director in our heritage team with strong links to the city of Liverpool, provides his thoughts.

The Haw family relocated to Liverpool from Yorkshire in the 18th century to take advantage of the bustling and ever expanding port city. It was during this time that Liverpool led the way in technological innovations, developed its dock system, had extensive global trading and cultural connections and left a legacy of fantastic historic buildings.

All of this, together with areas of harmonious townscape, has created a city of beauty with varying and complex layers of interest. As a heritage consultant from Liverpool, I would say that wouldn’t I? Bias aside, Liverpool’s importance has been recognised internationally by UNESCO with its designation as a WHS in 2004.

Interestingly, when you analyse the existing WHS boundary, the areas within all have conservation area status. Some would question whether this dual protection is necessary. For me, it is about showcasing that the heritage of Liverpool is internationally important and worthy of a higher recognition. That is the purpose of a WHS.

The principle of reviewing the boundary also makes sense. Guidance encourages local planning authorities to review conservation area boundaries every 5 years, so why not a WHS? I see this as an opportunity not only to consider additional areas for inclusion but also to critically review whether areas inside the boundary do fundamentally display the outstanding universal value of the WHS or whether they risk diluting it. As others have suggested, I would also query the potential inclusion of areas such as the Baltic Triangle (no matter how much I enjoy drinking at Camp and Furnace!). The inclusion of the remainder of the original dock network makes sense but although an area of character, does the Baltic Triangle display WHS attributes, authenticity and integrity?

Importantly, the 750.5 ha Buffer Zone of the WHS should also be reviewed. This is an area six times larger than the WHS itself. The original aims were to encompass the wider townscape and skyline of Liverpool given the topography of the area; however a significantly large area was subsequently drawn. My view is that there should be a clear distinction between the Buffer Zone and designated area in the assessment and determination of planning applications.

There is also an opportunity for clearer definition of what the actual key defining features of the WHS are. At Turley Heritage we have sought to define these ‘attributes’ within bespoke Heritage Impact Assessments based on the International Council on Monuments and Sites guidance. In the case of projects we have been involved in such as 21 Strand Street, Municipal Buildings, Chancery House, North Western Halls and the new multi-storey car park on Victoria Street, although these developments are within the WHS they have not affected the attributes that go to the heart of the why the WHS is special. The review should look to provide greater clarity on this.

In general, I feel the intention of Liverpool City Council to revisit the boundary is timely and welcomed given the positive pace of change in the city. 

Ultimately, in the words of the Beatles, we can work it out.

Jack Haw, Associate Director, Turley Heritage

Should you need heritage advice in connection with development proposals in or outside the WHS boundary, please get in touch with a member of our team.

5 March 2019
 

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