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This paper will explore the many challenges in managing an
urban WHS, with a case study on Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City (henceforth
Liverpool). Since the eighteenth century, Liverpool is a city which has
experienced many changes to its economic, physical and cultural
characteristics. It is a city which has seen ‘extremes of both
prosperity and decline’ (Sykes et al, 2013, 1), which is why it makes an interesting
case study. Liverpool was inscribed on the WH list in 2003 on the basis of it
being a cultural site. A cultural site is a ‘monument, group of buildings or
site which is of outstanding universal value to the international community’,
this is important to remember when considering the current controversy over
development. However, the status of this site is currently under debate due to
the controversial Liverpool Waters Development plans.

 

By
ratifying the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural
and Natural Heritage (1972), in 1984, the UK Government is ‘formally
responsible for the management of the WHS and for ensuring that its outstanding
universal value, authenticity and integrity are not compromised’ (LCC, 2009, 5).
By joining the Convention, the UK Government has ‘undertaken to identify,
protect, conserve, present and transmit’ its sites to present and future
generations (LOCUS Consulting Ltd, 2017, 2). The six areas of the property are
protected as conservation areas under the provisions of the Planning (Listed
Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (LOCUS Consulting Ltd, 2017, 24).
The WHS is subject to different plans and policies, including the Liverpool
Unitary Development Plan (2002), the Liverpool City Centre Strategic Investment
Framework (2012) and the North Liverpool Strategic Regeneration Framework
(2011).

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Being
a site made up of multiple areas in an urban city, Liverpool also has multiple
stakeholders. The key stakeholders for this site are the UK Government, UNESCO,
ICOMOS, LCC, Peel Holdings and the public. Despite this, both the WHS and
Buffer Zone lie within the boundaries of LCC. The current management plan for
Liverpool stipulates that the approach to the protection and management of the
site is founded on the ‘basic principles of heritage management’ which
‘champion the conservation of the historic environment’, thus illustrating how
regeneration is a key factor behind management (LOCUS Consulting Ltd, 2017, 2).
It is this issue of management and regeneration, interlinking with the need to
create a unique global identity which will be explored in this paper. In doing
this, the paper will also evaluate whether the WH status and development can
coexist.

Despite Liverpool being founded as a borough under the Royal Charter in
1207, nothing above ground in the centre today, apart from traces of the
medieval street pattern survive from before the eighteenth century (Rodwell, 2014, 20). Liverpool was once ‘one of the
great port cities in the world’ (Rodwell, 2015, 30), beginning in the second
half of the seventeenth century with the import of cargoes of tobacco and sugar
from the colonies in America and the West Indies and the export of manufactures
wares from the emerging industries of the Midlands and the North of England.
Throughout the eighteenth century, the city became one of the major ports of
exchange in the transatlantic slave trade, being labelled the ‘slaving capital
of the world’ between West Africa and the Americas (Belchem, 2006, 10).
Following the abolition in 1807, Liverpool built its wealth on the Lancashire
cotton industry, thus by 1850 the city handled around 85% of Britain’s total annual import of 1.75 million cotton bales (Wilks-Heeg,
2003, 40). According to Wilks-Heeg (2003, 40), Liverpool’s innovations in dock
construction and management established the city’s ‘global reputation as a
model port’. With Liverpool’s role in international trade led to other forms of
integration into the world economy, especially in the emerging banking, futures
and insurance markets, thus allowing the city to strengthen its connections and
compete with cities such as New York and London (Wilks-Heeg, 2003, 40).
In 1886 the Illustrated London News even described Liverpool
as being a ‘wonder of the world… the New York of Europe, a world-city’,
highlighting how the city was once viewed with awe (cited in Belchem, 2006, 5).
It also illustrates how Liverpool had always been a city which pioneered
development and change and it prided itself in this; a factor which is
important to remember.

 

Following
this ‘golden age’, Liverpool experienced a decline during the twentieth century
(Shaw and Sykes, 2015, 52). The population of the city mirrored this decline.
The population of Liverpool peaked in 1931 ‘when the census counted 846,101
inhabitants’ (Rodwell, 2014, 21. By 1961 this had fallen to 683,133, by 1981 to
503,726, and by 2001 to 439,476 (Rodwell, 2014, 21), Liverpool’s descent from
of the greatest commercial seaport cities was accelerated by the depression
which succeeded World War I. The city’s confidence and reputation was further
shattered by severe aerial bombardment in the early 1940s. After World War II,
changes in international shipping practices from docksides (such as the one in
Liverpool) to automated containerisation hastened Liverpool’s demise from being
a world class port city. Concerning trade, by the 1960s and 1970s, attention
was focused on forging links eastward with Europe (Shaw and Sykes, 2015, 52).
By the 1970s Liverpool ceased to be a maritime mercantile city which
consequently impacted on associated manufacturing industries and commerce, with
severe effects on the socio-economic life of the communities in the city
(Rodwell, 2014, 21). It was this economic decline and population loss which
created a ‘desperate need’ for urban regeneration and for the city to find a
‘new identity and purpose’ (Hinchliffe, 2015, 96). It is this need to create a
new identity which is shaping current management systems. 

 

Nomination

 

As
Pendlebury and Strange’s (2011, 383) observe, in the UK, the 1980s and 1990s
conservation planning practice began to ‘promote’ the idea of the ‘historic
environment as an asset to be used and adapted for economic gain’ – it was a
time when authorities began to realise that regeneration and conservation could
happen concurrently. In Liverpool, conservation and regeneration plans already
began in 1981 when the Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael
Heseltine launched a series of central government sponsored regeneration
initiatives in the city. The Merseyside Development Corporation was the
catalyst for the city’s pioneering project of heritage-led regeneration. The
Albert Dock was one of the places which was regenerated as it was saved,
conserved and converted into a mix of new uses, accessible to the public (Hinchliffe,
2015, 96). These initiatives highlight how protecting heritage was always a
concern for those managing the city; it was a way to establish an identity.
Even in the nomination document it is stated that the city has a ‘spirit of
innovation’ and that ‘ongoing regeneration and renewal initiatives’ are being
implemented to return Liverpool to the position of a world city (LCC, 2003, 25). Stakeholders were not hiding
the fact that the city’s Waterfront and landscape will continue to change and
develop; this was made fundamentally clear before its nomination and
inscription; it was always made clear to UNESCO that the city will continue to
regenerate and grow. The document even states that the inscription would be a
‘major step’ towards the continued regeneration, indicating how those who were
managing the city viewed regeneration as a positive factor (LCC, 2003, 25).

 

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