Welcome to World Heritage, Joe Perry! The Peatlands Partnership has just appointed Joe as their World Heritage Site Officer to take forward the idea of The Flow Country in Sutherland and Caithness becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS).
Joe is moving to the Highlands from Glasgow where he been working as a Project Manager for an environmental tour and experiences company that aims to connect young people in Scotland with our natural and cultural heritage. In addition to an honours degree in history, he has an MSc in Environment, Heritage and Policy.
The Flow Country is an area of deep peat, dotted with bog pools, that blankets much of Caithness and Sutherland. The Flow Country is the largest expanse of blanket bog in Europe and covers about 200,000 hectares. A recent academic study has described The Flow Country as being “the best peatland of its type in the world”. The idea that the Flow Country could be inscribed as a World Heritage Site has been investigated by The Peatlands Partnership for some time and the area has been on the UK’s Tentative List of WHS since 1999. A World Heritage Site Working Group was set up by the Partnership in 2017 this short-life working group is independently chaired by Mrs Frances Gunn of The Highland 3rd Sector Alliance and will have a fixed purpose to develop and submit a Technical Evaluation to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) by the summer of 2019.
A Technical Evaluation is essentially a scaled-down version of a ‘nomination’ (application) to UNESCO and is assessed by an independent panel. Whilst it is the Peatlands Partnership’s aspiration that The Flow Country becomes inscribed as a World Heritage Site, it is DCMS which will decide whether the case is sufficiently robust to nominate the site to UNESCO.
A considerable amount of work is required to complete the process and Joe Perry has been appointed to assist the Working Group in delivering this.
The Working Group has to carry out three main tasks which will take up to 18 months to complete:
- Develop a boundary for the proposed WHS in consultation with a wide range of community and other interests.
- Carry out an extensive community consultation covering all aspects of what a WHS could mean to local communities.
- Complete all the reports and information required to support the Technical Evaluation and submit this to DCMS in the summer of 2019.
Chair of the Working Group, Frances Gunn, said “In the past we have relied solely on a number of partners fitting this work in alongside all their other duties and so it’s a great step forward to have a Project Officer in post who can dedicate all their time to taking the World Heritage Site proposals forward, especially an all-important community consultation across Sutherland and Caithness.”
Frances added “I am particularly grateful to Highland Council who will act as host employer for Joe and I’m also delighted that we have funded this post from both the public and private sectors. The post is generously supported by Wildland Limited, RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage and The Highland Council.”
Nicole Wallace, Highland Council’s Environment Manager pointed out “Highland Council is happy to help the Peatlands Partnership take the proposals for UNESCO World Heritage Site status forward and I look forward to Joe starting work on this exciting project next month.”
“We shouldn’t let the fact that the Flow Country has been identified as the best peatland of its type in the world pass us by. A Flow Country World Heritage Site would not only be an enormous accolade for the area and the many organisations, land managers, crofters and farmers who have maintained this area for generations but it would also bring many positive development opportunities and undoubtedly some challenges too.”
The Peatlands Partnership
The Peatlands Partnership includes: Scottish Natural Heritage, Highland Council, Forestry Commission (Scotland), RSPB Scotland, Plantlife Scotland, The Environmental Research Institute, Northern Deer Management Group, Flow Country Rivers Trust, The Highland Third Sector Interface and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. It also liaises with local community groups, the Scottish Government’s Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate and the North Sutherland Community Forest Trust.
The Partnerships is chaired by Professor Stuart Gibb of the Environmental Research Institute in Thurso and Highland Council’s representative on the Partnership is Nicole Wallace, Head of Environment.
Joe Perry Project Coordinator, Flow Country World Heritage Site Working Group
Brigid Primrose Secretary: The Flow Country World Heritage Site Working Group,
c/o Scottish Natural Heritage, Great Glen House, Inverness.
Ian Mitchell Secretary: The Peatlands Partnership,
c/o Scottish Natural Heritage, The Links, Golspie.
0300 067 3110