Liverpool has been deleted from the World Heritage List after a UN committee decided developments – including the new Everton stadium – threatened the value of the city’s waterfront.
The city was named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 2004, joining places including the Taj Mahal, Egypt’s Pyramids and Canterbury Cathedral.
But on Wednesday, following a secret ballot, the World Heritage Committee voted to remove the site from the list, in a decision branded “incomprehensible” by Liverpool mayor Joanne Anderson.
The committee, made up of representatives of 21 countries, was asked to make the decision after a report said “inadequate governance processes, mechanisms, and regulations for new developments in and around the World Heritage property” resulted in “serious deterioration and irreversible loss of attributes”.
Discussions on the future for the city began on Sunday but by Monday members had been unable to reach a consensus view – and delegates from Norway proposed a secret ballot be held on the issue.
Announcing the decision on Wednesday, committee chairman Tian Xuejun said 20 votes had been cast.
Thirteen had been in favour of deleting the city, five had been against the proposal and two ballot papers had been invalid.
Anderson said: “I’m hugely disappointed and concerned by this decision to delete Liverpool’s World Heritage status, which comes a decade after UNESCO last visited the city to see it with their own eyes.
“Our World Heritage site has never been in better condition having benefitted from hundreds of millions of pounds of investment across dozens of listed buildings and the public realm.
“We will be working with government to examine whether we can appeal but, whatever happens, Liverpool will always be a World Heritage city. We have a stunning waterfront and incredible built heritage that is the envy of other cities.
“Our commitment to maintaining and improving our buildings remains as strong as ever and will continue to be a key part of our drive to attract visitors, along with leisure, retail and events.
“I find it incomprehensible that UNESCO would rather Bramley Moore Dock remain a derelict wasteland, rather than making a positive contribution to the city’s future and that of its residents.
“I’ll now be seeking to draw together all the UK heritage bodies in a round table to plan a positive future with further investment.”
A government spokeswoman said: “We are extremely disappointed in this decision and believe Liverpool still deserves its World Heritage Status given the significant role the historic docks and the wider city have played throughout history.”
Metro mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram said the decision was a “retrograde step”.
He said: “Indeed, this was a decision taken on the other side of the world by people who do not appear to understand the renaissance that has taken place in recent years.
“But many of the sites cited by UNESCO are in communities sorely in need of investment.
“Places like Liverpool should not be faced with the binary choice between maintaining heritage status or regenerating left behind communities – and the wealth of jobs and opportunities that come with it.”
The area has been on the List of World Heritage in Danger since 2012, when the committee decided the Liverpool Waters development, planned for the city’s northern docks, was a potential danger to the site.
Plans for Everton’s new £500 million stadium were approved earlier this year despite objections from heritage body ICOMOS, acting on behalf of UNESCO, as well as the Victorian Society and Historic England.
A report considered by the committee, meeting virtually and in person in Fuzhou, China, said: “The approved planning application for a new football stadium in Bramley-Moore Dock within the property adds to the ascertained threat on the property’s outstanding universal value and is directly contrary to the approach requested by the committee for this property.”
Liverpool City Council said £700 million had been invested in upgrading historic assets within the site in the past few years and a further £800m was due to be spent in the next five years, including on Everton’s move from Goodison Park to the dock area.