By Destine Williams
You can finally see the city lights: bright orange, white, teal, yellow. Colors stretch over the sea like streaks of wet paint covering the indigo water. You could get used to the shhh of the waves, lulling you to sleep as you lazily scan over the shore to the luminous faces of the clocks embedded in the grand Royal Liver Building.
“Wish this could last forever.” You think. [slideshow_deploy id=’86’]
Unfortunately, whether Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City can last forever as it currently stands is becoming a matter of concern lately. And to let Liverpool go would mean letting go of a valuable piece of world heritage. According to UNESCO, the site itself consists of a several parts. First, it is famous for its waterfront and Pier Head that includes the center Cunard Building, which is a mix of Italian Renaissance and Greek Revival architecture, that is flanked by the Port of Liverpool, and the Royal Liver Building. Together these buildings are regarded as Liverpool’s Three Graces. Then the designation moves to the dock area to include the numerous warehouses, the dock walls, remnant canal system, the docks and the various other areas related to port activities. Then there is the mercantile area itself and its shipping offices, produce exchanges, marine insurance offices, banks, inland warehouses and merchants houses, together with William Brown Street Cultural Quarter, and finally St. George’s Plateau, with the monumental cultural and civic buildings.
Liverpool itself has existed as long as the late 12th century, founded by King John. At this time, England was in need of another port to ship men and supplies after their ventures in Ireland. King John set up weekly markets in order to help bring in craftsmen, merchants, and tradesmen. The city’s expansion didn’t take off until the trade relations had begun to include West Africa and the West Indies. Liverpool’s role as a city played a crucial part in the transportation of both immigrants and slaves during the Transatlantic Trade. In addition to the outer trade that went on in Liverpool, the city also had a few flourishing industries of its own such as shipbuilding, sugar refining, rope-making, ironmaking, and pottery. The first of Liverpool’s well-known docks emerged around 1715, and from then on the city became not only a pioneering model for dock technology, port management, and transport systems but also a very key location partially responsible to the growth of England as an Empire during those times.
However, Liverpool may not get to keep the view of beautiful skyline and waterfront due to the proposed Liverpool Waters project. The project will extend to over 2km along River Mersey’s banks and is supposed to offer development opportunities for developers, business owners, investors, and many others. The Princes Dock, which sits alongside the Three Graces, seems to be one of the prime targets of the development plan. The multi-storied buildings planned will be sprinkled throughout Princes Dock area and can possibly visually divide and fragment the different dock areas that gave Liverpool its outstanding value as a heritage site.
In June 2015, the first building in the Liverpool Waters plan–a new eight-story office block–was given approval by the council planners despite several objections to the scheme: concerned residents don’t want the project to obstruct their view or have their apartment values depreciate. However, planners are in favor of the project because of the high-quality office spaces that would come from it.
Due to the Liverpool Waters plan, the city managed to make it onto UNESCO’s list of endangered sites in 2012 and UNESCO is watching Liverpool’s movements very carefully. Liverpool is in danger of losing its status as a heritage site. As it currently stands, the only European location to have been removed from the World Heritage Site list was the Elbe valley, but Liverpool may very well be on its way to join it. Should this project go through, UNESCO may very well pull its funding. But is a few new buildings truly worth the loss of something that contributes our world history?
“Historic Liverpool Property Placed on List of World Heritage in Danger.” UN News Centre. June 26, 2012. Accessed November 17, 2015.
“Liverpool Waters Project Would Damage City: Unesco.” BBC News. January 24, 2012. Accessed November 17, 2015.
Atkinson, David. “The Renaissance of Liverpool” The Telegraph. September 22, 2014. Accessed November 18, 2015.
“A Detailed History of Liverpool” Liverpool City Council. Accessed November 18, 2015.
Kirkham Neil. Sayer David, “Liverpool Waters”. Date Accessed December 8, 2015.
Lambert Tim, “A Brief History of Liverpool” Accessed December 8, 2015.
Murphy, Liam, “First Liverpool Waters tower block plan approved” Published June 9, 2015.
Thomas, Joe “Council taking threat to Liverpool’s World Heritage Status “seriously” as Unesco discusses city”. Liverpool Echo. Accessed December 9, 2015.