Stripping of Liverpool's UNESCO World Heritage status a 'warning' to Edinburgh, says heritage body

The decision by UNESCO to strip Liverpool of its World Heritage status throws up some important lessons for Edinburgh to learn, one of the Capital’s leading heritage bodies has said.

The Edinburgh World Heritage charity says the Capital must learn lessons from Liverpool's loss.

The English city’s historic waterfront area has had its World Heritage status revoked following the construction of a slew of major new developments in recent years.

The shock decision, which has been branded “incomprehensible” by Liverpool mayor Joanne Anderson, was finalised after a secret ballot by the UNESCO committee at a meeting in China, it was announced on Wednesday.

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Why has Liverpool been stripped of its UNESCO World Heritage Status?

UNESCO had previously sent out warnings that already built and approved new developments, including a new 52,000-capacity stadium for Everton FC at Bramley-Moore Dock in the north of the city, had resulted in “irreversible loss of attributes”.

Chiefs at the Edinburgh World Heritage (EWH) charity, who are charged with protecting the World Heritage status of the city’s UNESCO-approved Old and New Towns, say they are saddened to learn of the plight of Liverpool’s waterfront.

The city is only the third site to lose its World Heritage tag since the list’s inception more than 40 years ago.

In an official statement, EWH said UNESCO’s decision represents a “loss for the people of Liverpool, for the UK, and for the entire international community”.

However, while EWH says it recognises that the implications for Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns, which have been subject to a great deal of controversial proposals in the past decade, including the Old Royal High luxury hotel plan, and moves to replace the Ross Bandstand in West Princes Street Gardens with a modern concert arena, they do not believe the Scottish capital is under “imminent threat”.

Stating that “important lessons” can be learned in Edinburgh from Merseyside’s UNESCO expulsion, EWH said: “All decision makers in the city, including local communities, the city council and heritage organisations, must remain vigilant in order to protect our precious city – not only our iconic buildings, but also our skyline, public realm, green space, and the communities that live and work in the Old and New Towns.

"The new hotel at the St. James’ Quarter has certainly raised eyebrows, and has altered our skyline significantly.

"The recent proposals, such as the approved new rooftop extension for Debenhams on Princes Street are a further reminder that little-by-little, new development can encroach and threaten the heritage value of Edinburgh.

"Through our role in advising the city on the impact of new development on the World Heritage Site, we hope to prevent any further erosion of this heritage value through enabling new, sensitive development that we can all be proud of.

“At the same time, we need to ensure that the value and benefits of our World Heritage status are seen and enjoyed by everyone. This was clearly not the case in Liverpool, where the majority of elected members of the council favoured development over conservation.

"In Edinburgh, our status as one of the most beautiful historic cities in Europe is a major driver of economic growth, as well as a cause of daily pleasure and pride for its residents. We do not believe this needs to be sacrificed for any short-term financial gain.”

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