Liverpool could lose favour if it messes with the Three Graces

For a century, mariners sailing into the Mersey port have been greeted by the majestic Three Graces. The Royal Liver Building and its less famous sisters, the Cunard and Port of Liverpool buildings, have dominated the skyline and earned the waterfront international recognition in the form of Unesco World Heritage Site status, along with the Acropolis, the Pyramids, Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple, the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge and the Great Barrier Reef.

This Tuesday, however, that looks set to come to an end. The city is expected to approve the UK's biggest planning application: a £5.5bn development that will relegate the Three Graces to bit-players in a landscape dwarfed by skyscrapers.

The development will threaten the city's World Heritage status, putting it in line to become only the third place ever deleted from Unesco's list.

The planning decision is so controversial that, if passed, it will be subject to a legal challenge and referred to the Communities minister Eric Pickles.

Unesco has concluded in a report that the development would "irreversibly damage" the site, and "relegate The Three Graces to playing second violin".

Planning officials recommend that the council approves the project which is expected to create 20,000 jobs. Their report says that Unesco will add Liverpool to the "World Heritage in Danger" list, before deleting it from the main World Heritage list "if/when the 'damaging' components of the proposal are commenced".

English Heritage has formally objected, meaning that the development, if approved, will automatically be referred to Mr Pickles. Henry Owen-John, its regional director, said: "It is possible to have a scheme that delivers jobs and growth, without causing so much harm to the city's heritage."

The Victorian Society also objected, writing: "Dock walls and historical buildings would be completely overshadowed, literally and metaphorically."

Peel Holdings, behind the Liverpool Waters development, uses the cultural status to attract property buyers, promoting the "stunning Unesco-listed waterfront" in advertisements. Tourism brings in £3bn annually, with 42,000 jobs depending on it, according to the Mersey Partnership.

The Liverpool Preservation Trust, which launched an e-petition yesterday asking for the Department for Culture to scrutinise the application, is consulting barristers. Its founder Wayne Colquhoun, who hopes to mount a legal challenge, said: "Liverpool, a past European capital of culture, should be able to develop while protecting cultural assets, rather than turning it into Trafford Park-on-Mersey."

Peel Holdings, chaired by the billionaire Mark Whittaker, declined to comment on the development which includes 9,000 apartments, hundreds of offices and a cruise terminal.

Liverpool Council's chief executive, Ged Fitzgerald, confirmed the planning committee would make its decision this Tuesday.

Liverpool was awarded World Heritage Site status in 2004. If it loses that designation it will join a very short deleted list alongside Oman's Arabian Oryx Sanctuary, where prospecting for oil and poaching depleted the rare birds, and the Dresden Elbe Valley, which lost its status in 2009 after plans for the Waldschlösschen bridge were approved.

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power