In the news this week, English Heritage are continuing efforts to protect the historic environment, while a local resident of Woolton is playing her own role. David Fleming talks about Liverpool’s World Heritage Site status, and the Maritime Museum (of which he is ultimately responsible, amongst other things) appears on a new set of stamps.
Well, it happened. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, arbiters of the World Heritage Site list, met this week (as they do annually) and Liverpool was on the agenda. A decision was made to place the Maritime Mercantile City on the ‘In Danger’ list, which means that the “outstanding universal value” for which the area earned the title in 2004 (see my map of the historic sites of Liverpool for an outline of the WHS) is under threat.
It had been on the cards since Peel proposed their Liverpool Waters scheme, but the decision was finally taken in the wake of Liverpool City Council’s decision to grant that scheme planning permission in March of this year. Read more
Welcome back to the Liverpool Landscapes blog! I do hope you came checking every day while I was away ;-), but even if not, you’ll be glad to know I’m rested, relaxed and raring to go to bring you the most interesting bits of news concerning the history of Liverpool. The theme of this post seems to be milestones, in a way, so let’s start with politics…
The general election and history
The first occasion on the horizon is of course the General Election. As a civil servant, I should probably be careful what I say in the run up to May 6th, but it’s worth pointing out that the Museums Journal this month contains a short analysis of what the main parties intend to do should you vote them into power next month. (You’ll need to register to view the article, or pick up a copy of MJ in the local library).
All the parties seem to agree on free admissions to museums, a move away from targets, and on increasing access to arts and cultural institutions. However, Louise de Winter of the National Campaign for the Arts notes that Labour’s reliance on free admission to help with increased access is not enough.
The Conservatives emphasis on helping people to help themselves (“Big Society, Small Government”) may extend to the cultural sector, with an ‘arm’s length principle‘ being applied to supporting museums.
The Liberal Democrats also want to enable museums to be more independent and enterprising, and want to generate more arts and heritage money from the National Lottery through tax changes.
At the time of the Journal’s press, the Labour manifesto had not been released, but it noted that the party wanted to ensure all Britain benefits from the digital revolution, and to build on earlier schemes such as Find Your Talent.
English Heritage publish heritage protection paper
Even though the Heritage Protection Bill did not make it into the Queen’s Speech last year, work has continued on reforming the way the historic environment is cared for.
All you professional archaeologists out there will know about PPG15 and PPG16, the two documents which make rescue archaeology (and so the vast majority of professional archaeology occurring in this country) possible. These documents are both almost 20 years old, and have been replaced by Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 5.
The long term aims with heritage protection reform (HPR) are to replace the current system of listed buildings, scheduled monuments and other designations with a single, hierarchical system. This would make it easier to protect historic sites and buildings, as well as make it simpler for owners of such assets to find the information they need to effectively protect them.
Well, those are probably the big stories of the day, but there are a few more tidbits to cover.
It’s International World Heritage Day tomorrow (18th April)! Now, I’m assuming that anyone reading this post is somehow interested in a certain World Heritage Site, and now’s your chance to raise awareness of where it is, and the work it takes to preserve and look after it.The Global Development Research Center (sic) has a few suggestions on what people can do to celebrate and commemorate.
Liverpool City Council have organised five tours of parts of the city which fit in with this year’s theme, which is the Heritage of Agriculture. Now, you may argue that Liverpool’s WHS has little to do with agriculture, but as the foremost port of the empire, merchants in Liverpool oversaw a huge proportion of the transport of the world’s agricultural produce. For details of the tours, download the leaflet from the Liverpool World Heritage web site. Places are limited, so get in early!
Speaking of mercantile heritage, the Old Dock is finally to be opened to the public on 4th May. As the BBC report, the remains of the dock wall were carefully preserved during the construction of Liverpool One, and can be seen through a window placed in the floor at the bottom of the steps from the Liverpool Wheel where the Liverpool Wheel used to stand [cheers for the correction, Adrian!].
From next month, there will be a “visitors’ facility” to allow you to view objects found during archaeological excavations there, a computer reconstruction fly-through, and the east section of the dock which has a tunnel suspected of linking to Liverpool Castle. More details are available on the Maritime Museum Liverpool web site.
And finally-finally, architects Baca have another masterplan to ruffle the feathers of the Liverpool Preservation Trust et al. This time the south docks are in the picture, and Baca want to “bring an interesting new approach to waterspace design that will unlock the potential of these wonderful docks and the World Heritage Site”.
As you know, I for one consider that the World Heritage Site needs its potential unlocking. It’s so… tied up there in those creaky old buildings.
There has been a certain amount of interest in my post on re-using Liverpool’s derelict buildings and in particular the derelict tobacco warehouse at Stanley Dock, which many (me included) would like to see regenerated. A few questions remain, such as the problem of too-low ceilings (are they too low? How low is too low?). If this is a problem, are there any other uses to which the huge building could be put (See ‘Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse below)?
There is also of course the larger problem of the isolation of the warehouse and other buildings down that part of the city. It’s handy for the town centre, but a little too far to walk, but possibly not worth driving in.
We could sit around here all day discussing the problems of regenerating the warehouse area, but I’d like to keep the focus on the wider issue of the redevelopment and re-use of derelict buildings, of which there are many around Merseyside. There are other cities in the country who have already taken up the challenge. Four of them are mentioned in the English Heritage (EH) publication Making the Most of Your Local Heritage: A Guide for Overview and Scrutiny Committees, downloadable from the HELM website (and which actually has a photo of our own fair city on the cover).
Although the booklet is aimed at those already involved in local heritage and planning issues, any of us can take its advice on how to make the most of our historic landscape and the buildings in it. Of particular interest is Case Study 3, Wolverhampton and Heritage at Risk: Protecting the Irreplacable (can you see where this is going? ;)).
Wolverhampton City Council recognised the considerable potential of redundant historic buildings when in 2004 a scrutiny panel was established to investigate how an increasingly uninhabited historic environment could be used as an effective impetus for regeneration. The review attracted widespread attention amongst the local press and community as the Panel sought to establish how new uses could be found for a significant number of historic buildings…
Their report found that a crucial factor for success was the partnership between the City Council and developers, and recommended a set of character appraisals for important sites and other areas at risk. Could this be a solution for Liverpool? Does Liverpool have a similar process or committee? And what role can local residents play in the absence of such organisations? (Check out the advice for Heritage Champions on the HELM website).
Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse
I’ve found an old Liverpool Echo story referring to plans to regenerate the whole warehouse area from Dec 8th 2003, with “1000 building and permanent retail jobs” by 2008. I think we all know what happened to that optimistic scheme. Originally, owners Kitgrove had planned to demolish the building and keep the north west supplied with bricks “for the next decade” (the warehouse is the largest brick building in Europe). Luckily heritage groups and the city council opposed the plans.
A problem both articles mention is that little light manages to make it into the centre of the building, requiring that it be cored out to create a central atrium, something akin to the entrance to World Museum Liverpool. Also the general complexity of the building means options are limited for re-use. Nevertheless, past projects were ambitious: “There will be an exclusion zone on part of the roof to provide a nesting area for peregrine falcons.”