Todays loss of World Heritage Status for our City, even though it was expected, is a huge blow to our international prestige and will, without a doubt, affect our tourism and inward investment.
When we received the status in 2004 it helped our work, alongside winning the European Capital of Culture, in changing round the national and global and view of our City. Until these two things happened, we were just Beatles and Football globally and a poor man’s version of Coronation Street within the UK. People shunned our City for visiting, living and investment and the people of Wirral demanded a CH post code and not an L one!
Then people realised that Liverpool was much, much more than that. We were a City of huge culture and an important role in the World’s past present and future. The first decade of this Century was the best in terms of growth and employment that Liverpool had seen for many years. However, much of that has been lost in Joe Anderson’s wasted decade when the World Heritage Status was just a plaque on the wall in the Town Hall.
I have absolutely lost count of the people who have come to Liverpool to our Conference Centre and Arena and who have said to me, “I didn’t know Liverpool was like that, I’m going to bring my family next visits”. Then 3 months later they’d tell me that they had indeed just done that and the family loved it too.
Some will say, ‘but the buildings are still there’. That is true but what we will lose is the desire to preserve them and ensure that all buildings within key areas must be built to the highest possible standards so that in decades time people will still want to visit us.
Already we have a planning application in for a boring and banal development at waterloo Dock which will damage the views of the area in the final approach towards the Pier Head and the Birkenhead Docks for Liners and Ferries. The quality of our buildings old and proposed will be much harder to defend with no Status to lose.
Not, it must be said, that the Council during the last philistine decade, has been any good at high quality development. Look at the fiascos over the Futurist and the possible zipwire in the City Centre
But all is not lost if Liverpool shakes itself down and decides in this new post-Joe Anderson era, to really build up rather than ignore the things that give our Liverpool brand its Unique Selling Point. Liverpool must dare to be different and the way it can do this most effectively is to use its buildings and environment and other cultures to give Liverpool a must-go-to quality.
We must continue to act in strategic and planning terms as if the Status was still in place. We must emphasise and build on our past. We must preserve and find new uses for 981 listed buildings and 50+ conservation areas. This must be done rather than allow the haphazard largely low-grade development which took place over the last decade.
Liverpool will thrive if we make a positive and unique ‘brand’ for our City which recognises and builds on its past rather than create a city which has no USP to compete with all the other cities seeking global attention.
Liverpool needs to send a message from today on that the Philistine Decade has drawn to a close and thata new era of proud-Scousers in a proud City will ensue.