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Why has Liverpool banned skyscrapers?

If you want to bring more tourists in and get more attention in the world’s press, then World Heritage Status is a real advantage.

But if you want to build tall towers, then staying on UNESCO’s list can become challenging. Liverpool achieved its status due to it being an “outstanding example of a world mercantile port city”. However, it has been on UNESCO’s “World Heritage in Danger” list since 2011, when high-rise buildings were first proposed to go up on the dockside.

In a bid to save their status, Liverpool is now working with Historic England and they have created an action plan to stop the city being taken off the World Heritage Status list.

They are clamping down on planned dockside towers, and the £5.5 billion Liverpool Waters development is not expected to go ahead in its current form.

There are 31 UK sites with World Heritage Status (some in overseas territories). On my doorstep, in London, there’s the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey, Kew Gardens, and the Tower of London. Other sites include The Lake District and The Forth Bridge.

Generally councils are keen to keep their World Heritage Status, and there are only two locations that have been stripped of their designation.

An Oman Antelope Conservation Sanctuary lost its status in 2007 after the government cut the park’s size by 90%. And Dresden lost its status in 2009, after UNESCO decided that a new bridge over the Elbe would have a negative impact on the views of the baroque palaces along the river.

There is some debate around whether World Heritage Status is always a good thing. While a tourism boost can be good in some areas, others can suffer if they’re not able to cope with a sudden increase in visitor numbers.

And UNESCO doesn’t always manage to stifle high-rise buildings. They threatened to put the Houses of Parliament on the endangered list back in 2014, due to the number of skyscrapers planned south of the Thames. But after intense lobbying from the UK Ambassador to UNESCO, it didn’t make the list.

What do you think? Should we be preserving the spaces around our historic buildings, or should we accept that tall towers are needed once you start to run out of space in a city?

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

And of course, if you need input from a structural engineer on your next project, please do get in touch with me or with one of my team.

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