Monthly Archives: December 2017
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) awards World Heritage status on the basis that the ‘outstanding universal value’ of a site, whether in recognition of its natural beauty, historical or cultural significance, is deemed sufficient to ‘transcend national boundaries’. Liverpool was inscribed as a World Heritage Site (WHS) in 2004 in recognition of its rich architectural inheritance, unique maritime and mercantile history and its pioneering role in the development of modern dock technology, transport systems and port management. The designation covers several parts of the old commercial city centre, warehouses and merchant’s houses, including the Pier Head buildings and the iconic Three Graces, believed to be the inspiration for the Bund in Shanghai. While most agree that Liverpool’s status as a world heritage city has contributed to its sense of civic pride, concerns have arisen among the city’s business community and political leadership that the designation may be posing a significant threat to future prosperity.
The city council’s 2011 decision to grant planning permission to a £5.5 billion docklands development lead to a dramatic fall from grace, with UNESCO placing Liverpool’s cultural and architectural inheritance on its list of ‘World Heritage in Danger’. However city mayor Joe Anderson is continuing to back the development, in spite of a recommendation by UNESCO for a two-year moratorium on new developments in the city’s heritage sites and their surrounding ‘buffer zone’, including large parts of the city centre alongside derelict dockland and deprived neighbourhoods to the north of the city. The controversy not only places Liverpool’s WHS designation in jeopardy, but also raises important questions around local accountability for political decision-making and the problem of managing conservation in the context of the need for cities to grow and build prosperity for their citizens.
Aimed at reclaiming disused dockland to the north of the city, the Liverpool Waters development includes plans for apartments, offices, hotels and bars, as well as the 55-storey Shanghai Tower and other skyscrapers, which promised to ‘turn Liverpool into an international standard waterside destination’ that could rival New York, Vancouver and Shanghai. The dockland development is part of a wider Mersey Ports Master Plan aimed at building transport infrastructure as a drive for investment and trade, including an ambitious plan to develop ‘water freight transport solutions’ by re-connecting the Port of Liverpool to Manchester via the Manchester Ship Canal.
While initially supporting ‘the principle of a major scheme of regeneration in the Central Docks’ and recognizing the need for investment, particularly in the deprived north of the city, English Heritage raised objections based on the ‘density of development, the mass and scale of the waterfront blocks and the height and scale of the tall buildings’, alongside threats posed by underground car parks to ‘buried remains of the docks’. Some compromises have been reached around structural issues, however English Heritage’s key objection is based on its perception of the dockland development as a threat to the authenticity and integrity of the city’s cultural identity, by virtue of its location:
…..within an historic environment of international importance that reinforces the distinctiveness of Liverpool, allowing the City to be instantly recognisable, legible and rooted in its highly influential history. [Liverpool Waters-English Heritage Report Executive Summary. P.2]
This view that scale of the development would detract from the ‘historical primacy’ of Liverpool’s cultural heritage was echoed in a UNESCO inspection report published in November 2011, which warned of the threat of a ‘serious loss of historical authenticity’. The city council’s counter argument appears to be based on a very different concept of the city as a diverse, dynamic and political space where economic, cultural and social priorities remain contested:
We value the heritage status but we can’t let it stifle the growth of our city. People …come here for so many reasons – our culture, yes, our buildings, and because we are open and developing .
In a recent assessment of the impact of Liverpool’s WHS designation the Institute of Cultural Capital (ICC) explored perceptions and attitudes among citizens. Based on interviews and surveys of people involved in managing or promoting Liverpool’s visitor economy alongside ordinary Liverpudlians, the ICC report suggests that while people are generally agreed that Liverpool’s designation as a world heritage site has ‘contributed significantly’ to a sense of civic pride, those living in deprived areas outside of the city centre feel much less positive about the benefits than more affluent city centre residents. Local opinion is also divided on the economic value of the designation, with many citizens struggling to identify clear economic benefits. On the question of Liverpool losing its WHS designation, most agreed that this would have adverse impacts on the city’s image and attractiveness as a visitor destination. However, concerns over the negative impacts of delisting appear to be much greater among city centre residents than citizens living in ‘outlying and deprived city areas’, where the proposed Liverpool Waters development was ‘more likely to be welcomed as a much needed and long overdue’ stimulus for the economy.
The findings of the ICC Report appear to suggest a degree of sympathy among Liverpool citizens for the city mayor’s argument that compliance with the UNESCO moratorium on development would place ‘hundreds of millions of pounds worth of investment and jobs at risk by sending out the message that Liverpool had ‘shut up shop and was closed for business’. The ICC Report concludes that the city should do more to promote and educate its citizens on the positive outcomes arising from the social, cultural and educational values associated with the WHS title. However the differences between ‘the heritage and development camps’ appear to run much deeper than questions of perception. How do ideas associated with defending the integrity of ‘threatened heritage’ translate into the messy business of local decision making in dynamic urban contexts, where people live and work? In an era of prolonged austerity and public spending cuts, might the object-based logic of conservation, authenticity and ‘historical primacy’ be more and more called into question as cities seek to recover the dynamism of the past as a way building a better future?
Tate Exchange Liverpool
2.00 – 4.00 pm, Tuesday 23 January 2018
At the start of the 21st century, in one of the world’s richest economies, why should the problem of homelessness seem so intractable? Should we blame government welfare changes, including the introduction of Universal Credit and cuts to housing benefit? Does the problem lie with the shortage of affordable housing? Or is there a problem with a growing culture of illegal street behaviour? Should we be arguing for better support services, changes in societal attitudes, or simply more affordable homes? Join the Liverpool Salon and Museum of Homelessness to debate the crisis of homelessness today, in Liverpool and across the UK. This event is a partnership between the Liverpool Salon and Museum of Homelessness and part of State of the Nation conversation on Homelessness at Tate Exchange Liverpool. Museum of Homelessness will be presenting Frequently Asked Questions an artwork by Anthony Luvera exploring the support and services available to homeless people around the UK.
Julie Fadden is Chief Executive of South Liverpool Homes. She joined the organisation in 2005, bringing more than 25 years of local authority and housing management experience to her role. For the past 12 years she has proved that if you have the right people and the right focus, you can achieve fantastic results. This approach has turned a loss-making organisation into a profitable one, a blame culture into the best not-for-profit company to work for (for four years running) and a poor performing housing service into one of the best in the country. From May 2016 to September 2017, Julie served as President of the Chartered Institute of Housing where she campaigned for organisations to work together to end homelessness for good. During this time she raised over £60K for homelessness charity, Crisis UK.
Dave Clements is a writer, adviser to local government, and first convened the Social Policy Forum at the Institute of Ideas in 2008. He has over 15 years experience in policy and strategy development, in children’s, adults’ and integrated services, working across the public and charity sectors. Dave is contributing co-editor of The Future of Community (Pluto, 2008), author of Social Care for Free Citizens (Manifesto Club, 2010) and a contributor to The Future of the Welfare State (Axess, 2017). He also writes widely on contemporary policy culture for publications including the Guardian and Huffington Post; and online journal spiked. An archive of his writing can be found here.
Follow Dave on Twitter @daveclementsltd
Anthony Luvera is an Australian artist, writer and educator based in London. His work has been exhibited widely in galleries, public spaces and festivals, including the British Museum, London Underground’s Art on the Underground, National Portrait Gallery London, Belfast Exposed Photography, Australian Centre for Photography, PhotoIreland, Malmö Fotobiennal, Goa International Photography Festival, and Les Rencontres D’Arles Photographie. His writing appears regularly in a wide range of publications including Photoworks, Source and Photographies. Anthony is Principal Lecturer and Course Director of MA Photography and Collaboration at Coventry University. He also designs education and mentorship programmes, facilitates workshops, and gives lectures for the public education departments of the National Portrait Gallery, Royal Academy of Arts, The Photographers’ Gallery, Photofusion, Barbican Art Gallery, and community photography projects across the UK. www.luvera.com
Pauline Hadaway has worked in arts and education in the UK and Ireland since 1990 and is co-founder of The Liverpool Salon, a new forum for public debate on Merseyside. She is undertaking a professional doctorate at the University of Manchester’s Institute of Cultural Practices, researching different uses of cultural heritage as a tool for peace-building in Northern Ireland and Britain. She has been published widely including: Policing the Public Gaze (2009), published by The Manifesto Club; Re-imagining Titanic, re-imaging Belfast, in Relaunching Titanic: Memory and Marketing in the ‘Post Conflict City (2013) and Escaping the Panopticon, Photography Reframed (2017).
According to statistics published by the Department for Communities and Local Government, homelessness has been rising in the UK since 2010. Over and above the official data, homelessness charities point to the scandal of hidden homelessness affecting ‘potentially millions of sofa surfers’ and families bringing up children in unsuitable temporary accomodation. Meanwhile rough sleeping has risen dramatically with numbers of people with an identified mental health support need increasing three-fold since 2009-10 as a recent study by housing charity Shelter, found that 307,000, or one in every 200, people are now either sleeping rough or in temporary accommodation.
Liverpool has seen an increase of almost 20% in people asking for help and advice over homelessness issues since 2010, with more than 6,000 queries last year. The number of people sleeping rough on the streets of Liverpool is also visibly on the rise. However, in spite of the best efforts of many individuals working in services designed to support homeless people, a recent study found a high degree of consensus among people with lived experience of homelessness that the current system on Merseyside is not working effectively for people with complex needs. Recently elected Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has called for new approaches to help rough sleepers, through the Housing First model, which advocates getting people into a house or flat as quickly as possible and then providing them with visiting support services. However a 2017 report commissioned by Liverpool City Council points to deep structural and political problems that challenge easy solutions, while drawing a distinction between rough sleeping, homelessness, begging and ‘problems linked to ‘wider crime and criminal offences’.
Photograph from Assembly (2012 – 2014) by Anthony Luvera
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