Heritage, Pride and Place. Exploring the contribution of World Heritage Site (WHS) status to a city’s future development
In 2012, the Institute of Cultural Capital embarked on a year-long assessment of Liverpool’s status as a World Heritage Site. This work emerged in the context of the threat and eventual decision by UNESCO to place the Liverpool WHS on the ‘List of World Heritage in Danger’. This decision left the future of the site in serious doubt and opened a wide public debate around the perceived tension between protecting heritage assets and encouraging new urban development.
At the time of publication, the possibility of removal from the World Heritage List had failed to persuade local authorities to revise or reconsider the controversial Liverpool Waters redevelopment plans that led to UNESCO’s decision, whilst also appearing to have done little to galvanise local public support for the site. This apathetic response to the potential de-listing of the site, which had been discernible not only among members of the public but also among local politicians and business people, was reflective of a widespread perception that there have been few significant benefits of the designation. However, these perceptions did not appear to be grounded in a strong awareness and knowledge of the site, with few efforts undertaken to assess the actual value of the site to the city region.
Research Questions and Methodologies
This study offered a timely assessment of the impact of WHS designation and considered opportunities and challenges for the city to make the most of its World Heritage Site. Employing a holistic approach to assessment that acknowledges the essential value of the social and cultural dimensions of the WHS — in addition to their instrumental role in facilitating desirable economic impacts — the study sought to answer the following four key research questions:
- Does Liverpool’s WHS contribute to the sense of pride of place that local people and communities feel for their city?
- What are the cultural, economic and image-related impacts of the Liverpool WHS?
- What more could be done in the future to capitalise on WHS status?
- What risks are posed by the potential loss of WHS status for the city?