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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Who Needs UNESCO ?

John Woodman

The headlines covering the recent decision made by UNESCO at a board meeting held in China to remove 'World Heritage' status from the city of Liverpool and its waterfront have garnered much attention. Apparent concerns over a similar decision to affect the Stonehenge site resulting from a planned road tunnel and related infrastructure, are as yet unfounded but widely circulated. Just why do we bother with these unelected and distant bodies affixing their labels on desirable assets much like canine habit of lifting legs to urinate on lampposts and marking territory?

One of Blackpool's own 'world heritage' sites - thankfully passed over by UNESCO. A Blackpool bus with its own iconic features unique to the resort presents an additional asset on the promenade - for the time being. The black glass box offset to the right - the less said the better.

The simple answer is we don't. Accepting such labels be they unsolicited or invited brings with it all manner of obligation, deference to distant suits, restrictions on published materials and nomenclature, with unremitting bureaucratic aggravation. Whether or not a particular location or monument is 'certified' as befitting 'World Heritage Status' barely impacts public interest and attention. Does the Vatican enjoy such status? Or Trafalgar Square? Who cares other than travel industry pedlars of hype and well paid holders of UNESCO sinecures enjoyed by individuals purporting to represent global interests; with undeserved deference wherever they go in the world.

Does Blackpool with multiple 'heritage icons' lose its especial appeal through a lack of UNESCO endorsement? I think not. The self promoting case made through selective labelling exercises comes to us daily online and in print. Sometimes through the blatant commercial messaging imparted by once familiar faces and names - grabbing new income streams by selling their former selves to this or that insurance group, or home furnishings brand, on our televisions. That's the bottom end of the 'endorsement' business. At the top end. UNESCO has carved out for itself an unwanted, unnecessary and wholly inexcusable bandwagon handing out World Heritage endorsements to their own preferred and selected locales.

What the Lord Giveth, the Lord taketh away. In this case Liverpool's own actions on behalf of its citizens and economic development have been decried by the hacks in New York (or wherever this body calls home) - and consequently determined to take back their ball. Apparently Liverpool is in good company, since the city of Dresden also saw its UNESCO World Heritage appellation removed for some spurious reason. Having withstood the World War Two firestorm in 1945 I think Dresden's citizens are far well off spared the artifice of UNESCO bureaucrats.

Just to add to this labelling malaise UK Councils are now being implored to brazenly display EU signage in towns, cities and locations which are benefitting from ongoing largesse from the EU Regional Development Fund - extant apparently up to the end of 2023. Do these people never know when to let go? The UK Government - our Government - deems it necessary to require public authorities to ensure that any programme or project benefitting from Regional Development grants under EU conditions - displays the requisite blue and yellow star banner for public view. While at the same time the same organisation (the Brussels one I mean) goes about making economic and social life ever more difficult for the people of Northern Ireland (still a part of the UK national territory as far as I am aware) - and at the same time insisting and inserting EU regulatory governance on Gibraltar at its airport and port locations. Brussels it seems knows no shame : continuing in its relentless campaign of backbiting regulatory oversight of UK interests.

I recall a much earlier Blog on this site which has passed into the mists of time, highlighting the absence of EU flags being especially noticeable in Blackpool. I believe the sole example was on contractual work then being undertaken on the Tower Building complex. Whether the Starr Gate Tram Depot, so carefully sited on water's edge of the Irish Sea, now merits addition of the EU flag on its structure or surrounding fenceline remains to be seen. Watch this space.


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