As requested by Decision 30 COM 7B.93, a World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission took place from 18 to 20 October 2006. It assessed the impact on the World Heritage property of the new Liverpool Museum building, three additional new buildings that are being planned on the waterfront next to the Three Graces, as well as the overall situation of the property of the Maritime Mercantile City with regard to the state of conservation of the site in its widest urban context, its integrity and authenticity.
The mission noted that the city’s potential for development, due to the “urban renaissance” it is experiencing, is being managed through an impressive planning system with formally established Master Plans for each development site (with the exception of Pier Head) and English Heritage as a key partner in the regeneration process. Improvements should include better guidance and involve more partners, in particular local communities.
The World Heritage status should call for the introduction of a stricter regime of planning control based on a thorough analysis and description of townscape characteristics and sense of place. This should be taken as a point of departure to establish consensus upstream over the extent and range of development in and around the World Heritage site, and ways and means to achieve this. Benefits would include more consistency in decision-making and bringing more clarity to the public at large, including developers, local heritage conservation groups and the World Heritage Committee.
The mission concluded that the overall state of conservation of the World Heritage site is good as the docks and port areas, as well as the city’s listed historic buildings are either restored or well-maintained, or part of a programme of rehabilitation, carefully planned, documented and executed with great respect for the authenticity of the design and materialisation. The wider urban context, which includes seriously degraded areas, is part of renovation, rehabilitation and redevelopment initiatives that essentially aim at carefully re-establishing the city’s coherence through the enhancement of its numerous remaining historical features, the infill of vacant lots and the redesign of the public space.
With regard to the Museum of Liverpool Project, as well as the three new buildings of the Mann Island Project, all next to the Three Graces, the mission assessed that:
a) With respect to height, the Museum and Mann Island projects were respectful, as they do not exceed the height of the Three Graces;
b) With respect to these projects being complementary to the Three Graces, the City Council and its partners, including English Heritage, were of the opinion that the projects complement the Three Graces, because of their high-quality architectural design and materialization;
c) With respect to the dominance of the Museum building in particular, the architect and City Council with partners were of the opinion that it was not challenging the “iconic Three Graces” and that the design had taken into account the sensitivity of its location, as set out in the architectural design brief. However, the mission noted that this design brief did not reflect the specific characteristics of the property, such as verticality and rhythm of the Three Graces, which should have served to harmonize the historic environment and contemporary architectural interventions and to minimize controversy.
In response, the City Council has committed itself to rapidly producing a set of Supplementary Planning Documents with the aim of introducing stricter planning control based on a thorough analysis and description of townscape characteristics (including building density, urban pattern, and materials) and sense of place.
In conclusion, the mission considered Paragraphs 178-186 of the Operational Guidelines (the List of World Heritage in Danger) and Paragraphs 192-198 (Procedure for the eventual deletion of properties from the World Heritage List), and in terms of threatening effects of town planning (Paragraph 179 b. iv) established that:
a) Liverpool’s inscription criteria and justification emphasize that the property consists of specific areas that are testimony to the development of modern dock technology, transport systems and port management, with significant individual commercial and public buildings grouped along a limited number of streets that showcase the wealth of the city at the height of its development. As the Liverpool Life Museum and the Mann Island projects are not towering over, nor obscuring principal views to the Three Graces on Pier Head, the site's outstanding universal value is considered not under imminent threat. Overall, the property’s protected areas with related structures and individual buildings were not under threat of significant modification or degradation, nor would any of the development proposals obstruct views to them in any significant way;
b) However, when taking into account building density, urban pattern and historic character of the Pier Head, potential threats exist to the visual integrity of the site. As the World Heritage Committee in its current Operational Guidelines (Chapter II E) has not yet fully developed guidelines for the application of the condition of integrity to cultural properties, impacts on the site remain difficult to assess.
Based on the World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS mission report, the State Party commented on 1 February 2007 on several issues and progress made to ensure the maintenance of the outstanding universal value and integrity of the property:
d) A Heritage Protection White Paper is being published in March. This document will serve to strengthen and clarify measures for protecting World Heritage properties;
e) English Heritage, the Commission for Architecture and Built Environment and historic environment and architecture experts prepared a revised guidance on tall buildings. This document is out for public consultation and will be published;
f) The Regional Spatial Strategy is under review and contains appropriate policies to protect the cultural heritage of the Liverpool’s region;
g) Liverpool City Council has begun work on the Local Development Framework. In addition, a Supplementary Planning Document to set out objectives for the property of Liverpool is being prepared;
h) Liverpool City Council with English Heritage and Liverpool Culture Company have commissioned a World Heritage Education and Interpretation Strategy which will improve the understanding of the values of Liverpool as a World Heritage property;
i) Concerning the implementation of the Vienna Memorandum (2005), they proposed to use Liverpool as a case study for the development of the World Heritage Committee’s overall approach to urban properties and towards the elaboration of a UNESCO Recommendation on the Conservation of the Historic Urban Landscape.