UN’s cultural agency cited concerns over construction of buildings and a proposed football stadium that will change the landscape of the English city that gave birth to The Beatles.

Liverpool, which played an important role in emigration to the US, and was home of The Beatles, was listed in UNESCO world heritage site list in 2004.
Liverpool, which played an important role in emigration to the US, and was home of The Beatles, was listed in UNESCO world heritage site list in 2004. (AP)

The UN's cultural agency UNESCO has voted narrowly to remove Liverpool's waterfront from its list of world heritage sites, citing concerns about overdevelopment including plans for a new football stadium.

The port city of Liverpool was named a World Heritage Site in 2004, joining cultural landmarks such as the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The heritage label gives historic sites access to UN conservation funding as well as featuring in tourist guidebooks across the world.

At committee talks chaired by China on Wednesday, 13 delegates voted in favour of the proposal and five against, just one more than the two-thirds majority required to delete a site from the global list.

"It means that the site of Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City is deleted from the World Heritage List," Tian Xuejun, chairman of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee, declared.

People on Twitter reacted angrily to the decision. 

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The Liverpool City council tweeted that it’s a city not defined by labels. 

It is only the third such removal from the UNESCO list. The other sites stripped previously of the title are a wildlife sanctuary in Oman in 2007 after poaching and habitat loss and the Dresden Elbe valley in Germany in 2009 when a four-lane motorway bridge was built over the river.

Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram called it "a retrograde step" taken by officials "on the other side of the world".

"Places like Liverpool should not be faced with the binary choice between maintaining heritage status or regenerating left-behind communities — and the wealth of jobs and opportunities that come with it," he said.

The UK government said it was "extremely disappointed" in the decision.

But UNESCO delegates heard that the redevelopment plans, including high-rise buildings, would "irreversibly damage" the heritage of the port in northwest England.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites, which advises UNESCO on the heritage list, said the UK government had been "repeatedly requested" to come up with stronger assurances about the city's future.

The planned new stadium for Everton football club was approved by the government without any public enquiry, and "is the most recent example of a major project that is completely contrary" to UNESCO goals, it said.

Where The Beatles were born

Those who argued against delisting Liverpool included Australia, whose own listing for the Great Barrier Reef is threatened in this year's UNESCO deliberations. 

Norway in contrast said that while it was "painfully aware" of conflicts between development and heritage conservation, a "delicate balance" was possible, which was lacking in Liverpool.

Since 2012, UNESCO has locked horns with UK officials over development that has seen extensive restorations but also new construction that the agency inspectors say is overwhelming the district. 

It had urged the city to limit building heights and reconsider the proposed new stadium for Everton at a derelict dock site, warning of "significant loss to its authenticity and integrity".

The waterfront is also the site of a statue honouring the four members of The Beatles, the most famous cultural export from a city rich in musical history.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies