What do we want and what do we need?
Every minute of every day new culture is being created and our heritage is being updated. The World Heritage Site in Liverpool is in the centre of a living city, a city with a need to grow, to change and to develop economically.
Liverpool's northern docks are crying out for regeneration and in a world where governments are trying to wean themselves off their addiction to debt it won't be the public sector that does that regeneration. That means the private sector will have to supply the cash, but they shouldn't be the only ones supplying the ambition or the vision.
Liverpool doesn't just need economic growth at the same rate as everywhere else it needs more growth than areas in the South to catch up financially and to let people in Liverpool get the same benefits of a healthy private sector as everywhere else. We can't assume that public sector spending will get back to pre credit crunch levels. That spending was built on being able to borrow ever more money and we know that governments can no longer do that.
We shouldn't trample all over our history and heritage but Liverpool needs a future too. We can't preserve both the heritage site itself and also every single view of it from every single point. I happen to think UNESCO are being utterly unreasonable. Peel have already changed their plans to be more sensitive to heritage concerns but they are spending their money - there is a limit to how much they should be asked to change. I also happen to like their plans. Liverpool's heritage is based in large part on the great buildings created by people of vision in the heyday of the city. We need to keep creating that heritage by building the iconic buildings of tomorrow.
Heritage never stands still. I happened to catch Paul McCartney being interviewed on TV the other day. His accent is not exactly southern Liverpool anymore and his hair is not what it was in the sixties. No-one think that damages the music of the Beatles. It still remains great and it still remains part of Liverpool's tourist offer.
World Heritage Status is something that is good to have, it generates jobs in tourism and it gives Liverpool extra cachet. It is something we as a city want to have. But the jobs that could be created by Peel at Liverpool Waters however are something that the city needs rather than wants. Youth unemployment in the UK has now hit 1 million. We need jobs and we need them now. The housing market has become completely unsustainable so we need to develop land for the younger generation right now. If paying attention to our past starts damaging our future we are being selfish at the expense of our children. We already stand to bequeath them more debt than ever before, we should also give them the tools and jobs to pay off that debt.
Nobody is suggesting damaging the waterfront itself. There will still be the iconic site to visit. Tourists don't come and visit just because it is a World Heritage Site. People visit because it is the famous Liverpool waterfront and that and the cultural heritage of the city are valuable tourist draws. It will be more of a tourist draw if it is part of an even more vibrant city where more leisure amenities can be maintained by the money in the local economy as unemployment falls and people in Liverpool earn more.
Let's hope that a compromise can be found but if not then it is time for Liverpool to leave more than memories and heritage to the next generation of scousers. It seems that UNESCO have now offered an ultimatum - either the World Heritage Site status or Liverpool Waters. If that is the choice, then in my personal opinion the city have to pick the one that is about the future, not the past.