On common ground: Liverpool and Palmyra, World Heritage in danger

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As the world anxiously awaits a report from restoration experts on the condition of the ancient Syrian City of Palmyra, now recaptured from ISIS control, a University of Kent heritage lawyer warns that, much closer to home, the Maritime Mercantile City of Liverpool is also on UNESCO's List of World Heritage in Danger.

In a paper titled From Local to World Heritage: a Comparative analysis. https://www.kent.ac.uk/law/heritage/Docs/final%20conf/WHS%20special%20issue%20EDITORIAL%20FINAL%20RP%2012.01.2016.pdf Dr Sophie Vigneron, of Kent Law School (KLS), explains that following Liverpool City Council's outline planning consent for a £5.5 billion urban development known as Liverpool Waters, the Maritime Mercantile City could even be removed from the World Heritage List altogether.

Liverpool was made a World Heritage site in 2004 to celebrate its legacy as a merchant shipping port. The home of The Beatles and many other important cultural influences was identified as 'one of the world's major trading centres in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries' and subsequently approved as having Outstanding Universal Value in 2010. However, with the proposal for Liverpool Waters, a hotel, office and residential development, the World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) mission concluded that the World Heritage Site would be irreversibly damaged due to 'substantial deterioration of its architectural and town planning coherence, a serious loss of historical authenticity and an important loss of cultural significance'.

Research on the identification of national properties for inclusion in the World Heritage List in relation to the criteria of outstanding universal value, authenticity and integrity and the nomination of properties, is examined in Dr Vigneron's research which highlights these key findings:

  • Balancing conservation versus economic development is an ongoing issue
  • Goal of more consultation and community involvement rarely achieved
  • National selection not representative
  • Specialist criteria not translating into lay concepts

Dr Vigneron's research is published in Historic Environment: Policy and Practice 2016, volume 7 (2/3). See: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17567505.2016.1172777

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For further information or interview requests contact Sandy Fleming at the University of Kent Press Office. Tel: 01227 823581/01634 888879 Email: [email protected]

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Notes to editors

There are now over 1,000 World Heritage properties around the world with a wide number of different challenges, reflecting their very different characters and natures, as well as different governance systems and cultural traditions in different regions of the world.

After ISIS militants seized control of Palmyra, known as the "Venice of the Sands" last May, they immediately set out to destroy it. In the past year until it was recaptured, parts of the UNESCO* World Heritage site have been blown apart.

The site was recaptured by Syrian forces in late March, but by then many of the site's monuments had been reduced to rubble, including the Temple of Bel and the Arch of Triumph, both of which stood for nearly two millennia. Now UNESCO is assessing the practicalities and the cost of restoration of the damage to the ancient ruins.

*UNESCO – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation

Established in 1965, the University of Kent – the UK's European university — now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It has been ranked: third for overall student satisfaction in the 2014 National Student Survey; 16th in the Guardian University Guide 2016; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.

In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium.

In 2014, Kent received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

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Sandy Fleming
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