The Chief Executive of leading private sector lobby group Downtown in Business, Frank McKenna, has urged Liverpool City Council to voluntarily surrender its World Heritage Status (WHS).
Controversial discussions have been taking place this week, with UNESCO expressing concern at future regeneration plans in the city, and suggesting that they may strip Liverpool of its WHS title.
However, McKenna, a long-time critic of UNESCO and its approach to development in Liverpool, says that city leaders should now grasp the nettle and hand the title back.
‘World Heritage Status is a vanity badge that adds no value to the city’s visitor economy, nor to our economic growth.
‘Worse, it has had a negative impact in recent years, with many developers choosing alternative cities to invest, put off by the additional red tape and bureaucracy that UNESCO bring to the planning process in Liverpool.
‘I have never met a foreign visitor who has quoted WHS as the reason for their visit to the city. I have never heard an investor give it as a reason for them being in Liverpool. It is a vanity badge celebrated by luvvies and the cultural elites; and used by heritage obsessives as a stick with which to beat our city.’
Mr McKenna added that some of those who defended UNESCO were unaware of the negative impact WHS has on Liverpool; whilst many who criticise the city’s progressive development plans have never even been to the city.
‘The heritage lobby pretend that Liverpool is going to build tower blocks on top of and around the Three Graces. That is a nonsense. Planned developments in the North Dock are well away from the Heritage site itself and are not anywhere near the Graces.
‘However, the so-called ‘buffer-zone’, which covers huge chunks of the city, prevents iconic, ambitious projects.
‘I find it ironic that those who do the most complaining about more student accommodation, and the growth of hotels catering for the stag and hen market, are the same people defending UNESCO.
‘We want to celebrate our past, but not live in it. Where are the next iconic developments coming from? How can they be developed with planning processes that tie one arm behind our backs?
‘I understand that Liverpool City Council have asked UNESCO to visit the city, in a bid to convince them to maintain our World Heritage Status. That is a mistake. We should simply hand the badge back, and get on with building a future that is as successful and ambitious as our past.’