Liverpool in danger of losing its World Heritage status

Find below a report making the case for Liverpool to retain its World Heritage Site (WHS) award. The city has been on the UNESCO WHS endangered list since 2012 due to the proposed construction of the Liverpool Waters project.

Many discussions have ensued over the years, with UNESCO agreeing to offer the city an extension back in 2018. However, by June 2021, a recommendation has been made for UNESCO to delete Liverpool from the WHS list. The final decision will be made in late July 2021.

Reflections on what is sustainable within urban World Heritage Sites are very valuable at this point. How can cities continue to develop and evolve while also protecting – and enhancing – their heritage?


  • You can find here a report produced by the Institute of Cultural Capital in 2013, about the complexity of arguing for the value of retaining World Heritage Site status in cities aspiring to progress with their urban developments. Back in 2013-2014, city leaders in Liverpool – and UNESCO representatives – failed to find sufficient nuance around the debate on ‘heritage’ and ‘development’, with many perceiving these as two opposing sides of the equation. At the ICC, we argued for more locally sensitive (as well as more aspirational) models of heritage assessment.
  • Find here the report produced this year (2021) by the Liverpool World Heritage Task Force. You can also read (below) the letter produced by Michael Parkinson, author of this new report .

Dear Colleague

As you will  know Liverpool has had World Heritage Site status since 2004 as ‘the supreme example of a commercial port at a time of Britain’s greatest global influence’. However, it is at risk of losing it at a meeting of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee  this July.

Many key institutions  and partners in Liverpool are opposed to and determined to prevent the city losing this status. They believe it would be unfair and  harmful to Liverpool – as well as  to the wider UK heritage position. In particular the newly elected Mayor Joanne Anderson is calling for UNESCO to delay its decision so that Liverpool can properly present its case and it achievements to UNESCO and the wider world in the coming months. 

As part  of presenting that case the Mayor’s World Heritage Site Task Force which was set up in 2018 has prepared with  Liverpool City Council the attached  report – ‘Liverpool: A World Heritage City.’

We believe it demonstrates that Liverpool:

  • does take and has taken its heritage seriously 
  • has invested substantially in heritage already and plans to invest more in future
  • sees heritage  as crucial to its long term economic and social development
  • has and can balance the need to protect its heritage but also to deliver economic  prosperity to the many, still very deprived areas of the city

The report  calls for Liverpool, the UK government and UNESCO to work in partnership  to ensure the city retains its current valuable  and valued World Heritage Site status.

Please do feel free to share it with any  colleagues you think would value seeing it.

As a member of the Task Force involved  in preparing this report, I with my colleagues  would be very glad to hear your views of: the issues it  raises; the evidence it presents; the arguments it makes  and the solution it proposes.

Thanks for your support 

Best wishes 

Professor Michael Parkinson CBE

Published by

Beatriz Garcia

I have led research on the cultural policy frameworks, resulting impacts and legacies of large scale events since 1998. I have documented the Cultural Olympiad since its start in 1912 and the European Capital of Culture programme since its launch in 1985. I have also hit the streets, conducting fieldwork at every Olympic Games since 2000 and at most European Capitals of Culture since 2007. I am Culture Advisor to the International Olympic Committee and member of the European Capital of Culture Selection Panel. I direct international research at the University of Liverpool.

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