As someone who played a small part in promoting Liverpool’s case for world heritage status in the early 2000s, I was saddened to see the loss of the Unesco designation (Unesco strips Liverpool of its world heritage status). It is, nevertheless, a timely reminder of the responsibilities of local and central government to guard and conserve both the built heritage that merits this highest of distinctions and, equally importantly, its distinctive setting.
The pictures you published illustrate the failure to do so in Liverpool’s Victorian docks. The right sort of regeneration is not in conflict with heritage – quite the opposite. Unfortunately, Liverpool’s planning committee permitted a number of out-of-scale developments unsympathetic to the character of the docks. They were surely warned of the potential consequences. A fresh visit to the city by Unesco would simply confirm the decline in the unique character of the docks in the last 10 years.
If the new city mayor, Joanne Anderson, is concerned to learn from this sad and wholly avoidable outcome, she should announce an inquiry into how Liverpool, one of the UK’s cultural jewels, came to succumb so badly to development at any price.
Cllr Phil Davis
I visited Liverpool’s historic docks about a year ago and was shocked at the architectural mission creep. These prestigious international designations are few and far between, and having one does not give recipients the right to shift the goalposts so markedly in architectural terms, incrementally or not, and then expect to retain the coveted title.
It beggars belief that the city mayor tries to use the argument that a new football stadium, plonked in the Stanley Dock conservation area, would attract hundreds of thousands of visitors. Yes, it probably would, but visitors’ experiences of the historic area would inevitably be blunted by the presence of such an edifice.
And it is ludicrous that Jayne Casey, co-creative director of Liverpool’s capital of culture in 2008, is now arguing that removing the status opens the floodgates to developers. Unesco has clearly concluded that that is already the case, and the city burghers have only themselves to blame. Well done, Unesco.
The desecration of our cities by developers’ and planners’ enthusiasm for high-rise blocks is currently being inflicted, on a more modest scale, on the Unesco world heritage site of Bath (From modernist myopia to civic weakness, our historic buildings have paid the price). In Bath, council planners are keen, despite local opposition, on an application for a large modern extension to the 283-year-old Royal Mineral Water hospital (the Min), that was designed by John Wood, architect of the Circus.
This application by a Singaporean multinational hotel chain could soon be approved, despite objections that the city is already overstocked with high-end hotels. This is the latest in a series of similar insensitive hotel and luxury developments in Bath that may attract the attention of Unesco.
If developments like the Min extension go ahead, Bath might well be delisted, depleting still further the UK’s roster of such sites.
Phil de Souza
I read with interest Gavin Davenport’s letter written as chair of the Merseyside Civic Society. It is difficult to comprehend how he can overlook the damage that has been done to Liverpool’s once magnificent architectural heritage over the last 30 years with such insouciance. Goodness knows Liverpool has suffered over the years, not least because of the party that continues in power in this country, but the city’s leaders and planners seem to have done their utmost to compound the damage by others to its economic wellbeing, by damaging its physical attributes and heritage. Money talks all too loudly to the planners and developers, and all over the city there is evidence of this ethos in the corporate-design tawdriness of most modern buildings in Liverpool.
A special contempt must reserved for the Pier Head. I used to love the Royal Liver Building when it was black with soot, a great dark monolith of power and grace. It’s still pretty good now, even after being cleaned some years ago. It is so sad that one of the great urban views of Europe, if not the world, has been destroyed by the second-rate architecture of the Museum of Liverpool and the appalling black glass building that now hides the magnificent Pier Head buildings, both standing like two fingers to the heritage and history of Liverpool and to the people of Liverpool.