Preservationists: Liverpool Waterfront in Danger of Losing History

The city's heritage status is threatened by development.

Albert Dock, a key part of Liverpool's UNESCO World Heritage Site (Photo by Ronald Saunders via Flickr)

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The English city of Liverpool, whose waterfront was made a World Heritage Site in 2004, is on UNESCO’s World Heritage in Danger list, along with Aleppo, Old Jerusalem, and others. While many cities have seen destruction of historic treasures due to war and terrorism, in a new paper, Sophie Vigneron of Kent Law School, says the biggest threat to Liverpool is mixed-use luxury development.

The offending project? Liverpool Waters, a hotel, office and residential development right on Liverpool’s port. The city’s maritime history is what makes it a significant historical site, having been “one of the world’s major trading centres in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries,” according to UNESCO. Liverpool Waters, which the developers boast will “comprehensively transform the city’s northern docks,” puts 60 hectares of waterfront at risk. The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) have stated that if the project is built, Liverpool’s World Heritage status would be irreversibly damaged due to “substantial deterioration of its architectural and town planning coherence, a serious loss of historical authenticity and an important loss of cultural significance.”

When confusion arose last year over the wording of a UNESCO document that seemed to suggest Liverpool ought to impose an 18-month development moratorium, a Liverpool Council spokesperson announced that no planning proposals for the six skyscrapers planned as part of Liverpool Waters would be submitted until December 2016, “to allow time for further discussions and reports to be produced.”

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Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at

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Tags: urban planningreal estatehistoric preservationwaterfronts

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