Where Liverpool fell, can Birkenhead succeed? The race for Wirral’s first World Heritage Site is on
Can Birkenhead Park rub shoulders with the Pyramids of Giza? Wirral Council think so
Dear readers — remember all the fun and games UNESCO’s World Heritage Status brought us a couple of years back when Liverpool was unceremoniously stripped of the status? The long-reads in the broadsheets saying the city had destroyed all that was great about itself? The hand-wringing? The spectacular acts of self-flagellation? Well, brace yourselves, because World Heritage hi-jinks could be returning to our corner of the world. Birkenhead Park has just moved one step closer to the coveted label. Today’s Big Story asks what exactly that means.
At the weekend we caught up with one of Merseyside’s most perpetually maligned groups: the traders at St John’s Market. After the travesty of a refurb in 2016 left a soulless husk of a market, they’ve been battling the council recently over rent arrears, as well as the fact that their market is… well, you’ve probably been.
Last week it was bins and diggers on The Post — as paying members received two great pieces (more interesting than “bins and diggers” makes it sound, honestly). On Tuesday Daniel investigated a shocking statistic: that only a quarter of Liverpool’s waste gets recycled. Why is it that, even in the land of the famed and beloved purple bin, we do so poorly? Give it a read.
Then on Thursday Jack returned to the site of one of our biggest ever pieces: the Eldonian Village. Once one of the country’s most inspiring social housing communities, now the situation looks almost irreversibly bleak. One plot of land gifted to the village in the 80s, which now belongs to a company based in an offshore tax haven in the Caribbean, is now subject to a proposal to build a block of flats which one councillor has described as “deplorable”. Here’s a taster:
Meanwhile, one resident confronted one of the men in the diggers and demanded to know what was happening. Apparently, the man told them to “get a life”. Another one of the machine drivers was apparently even stronger with his words. “We’ve already been talking about you,” he allegedly said. “You’re gonna get a car ripped through your front door”.
Editor’s note: Our recent launch in Birmingham serves as continued proof that people across the country (or at least the north of it…so far) have been starved of high-quality, deeply-researched journalism. Here in Liverpool we’ll keep doing as we have done, and thank you again for your continued support. If you haven’t yet signed up as a paying member, do remember that our members fund all the journalism we do, so please consider joining the growing gang. We’re actually teetering on 1299 members at the moment, so somebody do the honours and take us to 1300!
This week’s weather
Tuesday 🌧️ Light rain and light winds with highs of 12°C
Wednesday 🌦️ Light rain showers and a moderate breeze with highs of 12°C
Thursday 🌧️ Heavy rain and a moderate breeze with highs of 11°C
Friday 🌦️ Light rain showers and a moderate breeze with highs of 11°C
Weekend 🌦️ Light rain showers and a gentle breeze with highs of 11°C
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from BBC Weather and it’s for Liverpool.
The big story: Birkenhead has its eyes on a UNESCO-shaped prize. But is there any point?
Top line: Birkenhead has its eyes on UNESCO World Heritage Status, a chance to give its friends over the water a (hopefully gentle) dig in the ribs. More specifically, Birkenhead Park recently took a step closer to winning the status after it was posted on a “tentative list” of contenders on the UNESCO website. Winning — should they win — would put the park up alongside Egypt’s Great Pyramids of Giza, Machu Picchu in Peru, and Australia's Great Barrier Reef. But what, if anything, does World Heritage Status actually achieve?
Before we get into it, let’s have a quick run-down of the contenders. Alongside Birkenhead Park, six other UK sites are in the running: The Zenith of Iron Age Shetland (three ancient settlements), York’s historic city centre, The East Atlantic Flyway (a migratory bird route over numerous UK counties), The Little Cayman Marine Parks and Protected Areas (in the Cayman Islands, a British Overseas Territory), The Flow Country (a large peatland area in north Scotland), and The Gracehill Moravian church settlement in Northern Ireland.
Why Birkenhead? Birkenhead Park’s claim to global importance rests largely in its outsized influence in inspiring other parks. When it opened in 1847, it was pioneering in how it brought green space to an urban environment. Its success led to similar projects all around the world, including Central Park in New York.
What’s the point? To many, the entire concept of World Heritage Status is an outdated one, which harks back to a pre-internet world when planning a holiday would involve dusting off a tired old copy of Lonely Planet and seeing what carried the all-important WHS tag.
We wrote about this on the two-year anniversary of Liverpool being stripped of its status. Most people we spoke to (even those who had been instrumental in winning WHS for Liverpool originally, such as Liverpool University historian John Belchem, who said the loss hasn’t turned out to be “Liverpool’s worst own goal”). Meanwhile fellow Liverpool University regeneration expert Michael Parkinson attempted to assess the economic impact of WHS, and struggled to identify much benefit. We wrote:
At one point Parkinson, as part of a project with Liverpool University, attempted to find evidence of the economic benefit of WHS. “It was very hard,” he says. “Finally, someone at the Titanic [Hotel] said they can probably get £10 a night more for a room, but that was about it”.
Of course, with Liverpool Waterfront there was a specific set of circumstances at play which led some — especially in the development world — to see it as a snag on the city’s progress. Before UNESCO ultimately decided that Liverpool’s treatment of its north docks had caused irreversible damage, there was an ongoing battle between those who wanted to protect the status and those who felt it had created arbitrary criteria that were anathema to ambition.
Mounting this kind of campaign isn’t cheap either. A full bid can cost up to around £250,000, and the economic benefits are hard to measure. Campaigners at the park are more optimistic though. Graham Arnold, chairman of the Friends of Birkenhead Park, claimed the status would help Wirral tap into Liverpool’s huge tourism sector, by “pull[ing] people across the water”.
David Armstrong, Wirral Council’s chief executive, said this earlier in the year:
“A successful application for WHS status would also bolster the wider regeneration of Birkenhead and if ultimately accepted as a World Heritage Site, this flagship park would have its place in history cemented even further, as well adding further to its international recognition.”
Your Post briefing
Liverpool City Council was warned about the dangerous flooding on Queens Drive before a married couple drowned on the road earlier this year. An investigation by The Echo revealed that the council had received a number of complaints about the flooded road — going as far back as 2013 — before Elaine and Philip Marco drowned in their car there this August. Following their deaths, a large portion of the road has been closed off while the council carry out repairs and enhancements, including the addition of new gullies and the removal of trees around the road. Jack recently wrote a piece about flooding in south Liverpool — read that here.
Liverpool FC have said player Luis Diaz’s welfare is their “immediate priority” after news that his family had been kidnapped in Colombia. The 26-year-old’s parents went missing over the weekend, with his mother found by the police shortly after. His father is still missing though, and the Colombian government and military say they are engaged in efforts to locate him as quickly as possible. LFC showed their support for Diaz in yesterday’s game, as Diogo Jota held up his shirt after scoring the opening goal in Liverpool’s 3-0 defeat of Nottingham Forest.
A firm has been fined £240,000 for using cladding similar to that used on the Grenfell Tower on a building in Liverpool. London-based company Green Facades Ltd admitted to using flammable cladding on the The Circle on Henry Street, and began removing the dangerous material from the building last year after intervention from Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service. Green Facades has also committed similar breaches of health and safety regulation at another site in London.
A time capsule buried in a Liverpool police station has been uncovered after 50 years. The capsule was found amongst the bricks at St Anne Street station, and was planted by builders from the Cubitts firm in 1971. The capsule contained a copy of the Daily Mirror and a note from the bricklayers, who called themselves Swooper, Smiler and Boss. Merseyside Police said they are keen to talk to anyone involved in the making of the capsule, calling the discovery an “unexpected surprise”.
Home of the week
This four bedroom end terrace in Prescot is on the market for £350,000. It has a gorgeous back garden with a built-in decking area, and space for three cars on its driveway. Find out more here.
🎃 Head to Duke Street Market this Tuesday for a Halloween-themed pottery painting session hosted by Gone Potty. All materials are provided, along with juice and sweets treats for children. Tickets are available here.
🎆 Ormskirk Cricket Club hosts its annual bonfire night celebrations this Saturday with a fireworks display, plenty of street food and DJs on until late. The event starts at 4.30pm with the bonfire lit at 5.30pm. Buy tickets here.
🎤 Queen of British soul Beverley Knight heads to the Philharmonic on Thursday as part of her biggest UK tour to date. Back together with her live band, she will perform all of her classic hits and fan favourites along with new music from her upcoming album, The Fifth Chapter. Buy a ticket here.
🎨 Liverpool John Moores University hosts a Black History Month exhibition viewing and arts panel on Tuesday, as part of an event to celebrate local black creatives. The pop-up exhibition will be held by Nikki Blaze, whose fusion of art and hip-hop has captivated audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Find out more here.
Our favourite reads
“In the year 1218, the Shah of Khwarezmia made one of the worst decisions in all of human history; he picked a fight with Genghis Khan,” begins this Liverpolitan piece about… Kirkby. Yes, this is a piece about a Mongol warlord and a mid-sized town in Knowsley, and it’s well worth a read. Regeneration expert John P. Houghton, who hails from Kirkby, sees a certain similarity between Khan’s destruction of the Shah’s hometown (after the Shah killed a caravan of Khan’s ambassadors) and the treatment of Kirkby by the local planning department, forever razed and rebuilt. Houghton believes regeneration is best done when it keeps communities together, and doesn’t endlessly seek to build and destroy.
An ode to Bill Kenwright in The Guardian, Everton’s “all or nothing” impresario, a man whose undying passion for this club, “even at the cost of his health — chubby-faced, sallow-complexioned, he often looked exhausted — was the secret of his impish charm, and his considerable success.” Kenwright is best known for his lengthy tenure on Everton’s board of directors and his huge success as a West End producer, but the obituary also touches upon his lesser-known, less “money-spinning” ventures, such as his salvation of the Liverpool Playhouse when things were looking bleak in the 90s. Kenwright was a man who never forgot his roots, and whose “loyalty to Liverpool and his family was unshakeable.”
Letters from readers
I don't often visit St. John's but last week I was in town with a friend and we decided to check out the market. We looked for direction signs for the market and couldn't find any. We eventually had to ask a cleaner for directions. It seems we should have been following the sign for 'food hall'! The market, itself, was awful with lots of shuttered stalls, ‘The loos are flooding. The lifts don’t work. It’s so hot, you’re dizzy. Would you pay 100% of your rent?’, Bill Watson
Another excellent piece, Jack. It’s a dreadful situation the residents of the Eldonian are facing which is all about greed and money. How the council can’t stop what’s going on is beyond me. It’s clear that the new stadium is attracting developers and stripping assets away that belonged to the community in underhanded methods that is deplorable, ‘A piece of land gifted to one of Liverpool’s poorest communities disappeared offshore. Now it may be turned into flats’, Carolyn Thornton