UK World Heritage Sites Review announced

DCMS Minister, News, UNESCO, WHS Review, World Heritage Sites, World Heritage UK

It’s all smiles at the Ministry this morning as World Heritage UK President, Chris Blandford, and Chair, Tony Crouch, meet with Michael Ellis, the Minister for Arts, Meeting the MinisterHeritage and Tourism at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

All good on the day World Heritage UK publicly announces that it will undertake the first review of all 31 of the UK’s World Heritage Sites.

This will be the first time that a comprehensive picture of how the UK’s World Heritage Sites are protected and managed has ever been undertaken. The review is being led by WHUK’s President, a leading international heritage expert. The review will focus on key management problems and issues at the sites, which range from Stonehenge and the Giants Causeway, to Edinburgh New Town and Liverpool’s city centre. It will investigate new options for sustainable management of sites, for public and private sector partnerships, and for improving benefits for local economies, stakeholders and investors.

The process has already started, with in-depth interviews with site managers and stakeholders across the country. Visits have been made to 19 of the 27 ‘onshore’ sites so far, with the other remaining sites scheduled over the next few months.

Sponsorship for the review has been secured from: Historic England; CADW, Wales; Historic Environment Scotland; Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in  Northern Ireland, and others.

It is anticipated that the final report will be completed in late autumn 2018, for sharing with the sites, government and other partners.

Chris Blandford, World Heritage UK President, said: ‘Collectively Britain’s World Heritage sites are the crown jewels of our national heritage and we need to look after them much better than we currently do.  Before we can start to advise government, UNESCO and others on future management we need to find out exactly where the problems are and what the solutions might be. This is what the review aims to do’

Tony Crouch, World Heritage UK Chairman, said: ’We are delighted that Chris is bringing his immense practical knowledge and skill to this task, which we see as central to our job in advising and encouraging government and site managers to take our World Heritage responsibilities seriously. We know that some sites are very well managed, but others are more problematic and may lack all the resources needed for quality management’

Professor Ian Wray, World Heritage UK Vice Chairman, said: ‘The UK’s World Heritage sites are central to Britain’s island story and, since Britain had such an important role in international events, to world history and heritage. They are the sleeping giants of our national heritage and of our national ‘soft power’ and cultural tourism’.

World Heritage UK responds to draft National Planning Framework

Advocacy, communications, Conservation, consultation, Culture, DCMS Minister, News, Planning, Publications, UNESCO, World Heritage Sites, World Heritage UK

WORLD HERITAGE UK’S RESPONSE TO DRAFT REVISED NATIONAL PLANNING FRAMEWORK FOR ENGLAND

 

cityscape St Pauls and The Shard

The Government’s planning policies for England are set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).  The Government has recently announced its intention to revise the Framework and has consulted on a draft revision.  World Heritage UK (WH:UK) responded to the consultation.

As a State Party to the World Heritage Convention, the United Kingdom is required to protect, preserve, present and transmit to future generations its World Heritage Sites.  It does this primarily through its planning systems. In the last 18 months, WH:UK has been working to suggest how the UK’s planning systems could be improved further to meet these responsibilities.   It based its response to the Draft Revised National Planning Policy Framework largely on this work.

In its response, WH:UK pointed out that England’s World Heritage Sites include a wide range of historic monuments and past industry, landscapes, townscapes, and natural and ecological features.  Therefore they will be affected by many of the policies in the NPPF. They cannot be treated as a single homogenous entity.

The full text of WH:UK’s response can be found under Correspondence and Consultations on its website Response to draft NPPF May 18 – resubmission final.

The key points in WH:UK’s response are:

  • Recognition.  WH:UK welcomes the recognition given to the protection of World Heritage Sites in various places in the Draft Revised NPPF.  It urges that, in due course, such protection should be enshrined in primary legislation.
  • Development Plans. WHUK strongly disagrees with the proposed changes to the nature of the “development plan”.   The Draft Revised NPPF states that, while local planning authorities will be obliged to produce a plan that addresses the strategic priorities for their area, there would be no obligation on them to produce more detailed policies in a Local Plan.   However Local Plans contain the very policies that currently protect, preserve and help present World Heritage Sites. They cover issues such as good design, the type of development that is or is not acceptable at or adjacent to World Heritage Sites, the protection of Sites’ settings and/ro buffer zones and the promotion of conservation.   It cannot be assumed that local authorities will voluntarily produce local plans. If they do not, this would severely weaken the effectiveness of the planning system in helping to deliver the State Party’s obligations on World Heritage Sites.
  • Pre-application engagement. WH:UK welcomes the continuing support for pre-application engagement.  It has encouraged its members to be more actively involved in decision-making processes and recognises the value of early dialogue.
  • Economic value of World Heritage Sites. WH:UK suggested that the NPPF should recognise the economic value of World Heritage Sites both locally and nationally.
  • Good design. WH:UK strongly supports the encouragement of good design.  It does not agree that it would be acceptable for increased densities to overrule local character and history, including the surrounding built environment and landscape setting.  Such an approach could threaten the Outstanding Universal Value of a World Heritage Site or its setting and/or buffer zone, all as interpreted by policies in the respective local plan or plans.
  • Green Belt. Similarly, while WH:UK understands the need to make best use of urban land and to protect the Green Belt, it is important to appreciate that this policy approach can threaten the Outstanding Universal Value and/or setting/buffer zone of some World Heritage Sites by increasing development pressures within urban areas.    This is a question of priorities, which the Revised Draft NPPF does not resolve. Instead it states that development in Green Belts may be approved in “very special circumstances” while “Substantial harm or loss of …World Heritage Sites should be wholly exceptional.” WH:UK believes that, given their worldwide importance, World Heritage Sites should take precedence over Green Belts, and therefore there may be circumstances where it would be appropriate to review Green Belt boundaries to relieve development pressures at or adjacent to World Heritage Sites.
  • Natural World Heritage Sites.  WH:UK is seriously disappointed that the chapter on conserving and enhancing the natural environment does not recognise or set out policies for England’s natural World Heritage Site (the Dorset and East Devon Coast) or any such sites that may be inscribed in the future. The existence of such sites is recognised only in a footnote in the chapter on conserving and enhancing the historic environment, and then no indication is given as to whether the policies applicable to World Heritage Sites in that chapter apply to natural sites.  Nevertheless, WH:UK warmly welcomes the new reference in the first paragraph of that chapter to World Heritage Sites, which provides a clear signal in respect of the Sites’ importance.
  • Heritage Impact Assessments. WH:UK  strongly encourages the use of Heritage Impact Assessments to help local planning authorities determine development proposals, and considers these should be mentioned in the NPPF.
  • Development within World Heritage Sites. WH:UK supports of the proposed retention of the requirement on local authorities to “look for opportunities for new development within World Heritage Sites…to enhance or better reveal their significance;” while recognizing that not all elements of a World Heritage Site will necessarily contribute to its significance.
  • Minerals development. World Heritage UK welcomes the continued protection of World Heritage Sites through the provision of landbanks of non-energy minerals from outside these areas as far as is practical.  However that protection should also be applied to areas that form part of the setting and /or the buffer zone of Sites, as interpreted by policies in the respective local plan or plans.  Also the text addressing the issues on oil, gas and coal exploration and extraction is very weak in relation to heritage issues. In this respect, WH:UK advocates a similar approach as for non-energy minerals.

Author credit: Donald Gobbett, World Heritage UK Board Member

English Lake District UNESCO World Heritage Site celebrated by royal visit

Announcement, Awards, communications, DCMS Minister, Lake District, News, Uncategorized, UNESCO, World Heritage Sites, World Heritage UK

WP_20180326_10_25_56_ProHundreds of people came to see His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales as the guest of honour at a special community event on 26th March, to mark the Lake District as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The long journey to World Heritage Site status was led by Lord Clark of Windermere, managed by the Lake District National Park Partnership and submitted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Historic England.

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Prince Charles unveils the UNESCO plaque with Lord Clarke

The Prince of Wales attended the event at Crow Park, Keswick, and unveiled the official UNESCO plaque to mark the designation. As Chairman of the Partnership, Lord Clarke maintained, “this plaque will give local people and visitors a place to come and appreciate not just the spectacular landscape, but also the rich, cultural history of the Lake District as a World Heritage Site”.

The event was a celebration of the unique cultural landscape of the Lake District to which special guests and members of the community were invited to attend. Among these was World Heritage UK President, Chris Blandford, who explained the work of the organisation to the Prince of Wales, finding that the guest of honour fully understood the values that underpin the UK’s World Heritage Sites, as well as the issues they face. Michael Ellis, the new Heritage Minister was also present, and it is hoped that a further meeting with him and World Heritage UK will be arranged.

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Chris Blandford meets the Prince of Wales with John Hodgson and Keith Jones

UNESCO asks all World Heritage Sites to celebrate their status by erecting an official plaque, but with so many inspirational viewpoints to choose from across the Lake District, a number of locations and plaques were considered by the Partnership. The criteria included a stunning landscape view, good public access for all and strong representation of the three World Heritage Site themes of cultural landscape: identity, inspiration and conservation. The National Trust’s Crow Park, overlooking Derwent Water, was chosen for this special event. 

Lake District National Park Chief Executive, Richard Leafe, explained how the benefits of this new status were already being seen across the National Park. “Since last summer, we have seen some great examples of organisations, businesses and communities using World Heritage status to flourish and prosper,” Richard said. “From inspirational cultural events to welcoming first-time visitors to the park, this global recognition has encouraged new opportunities, while continuing to be a much loved national park for everyone to enjoy.”

The English Lake District UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of over a thousand across the world and is the 31st inscription for the UK. It is the UK’s largest World Heritage Site at 229,200 ha and is the only UK National Park that is entirely a World Heritage Site.

There are three themes that underpin the English Lake District World Heritage Site inscription are:

1)    Identity: The acknowledged beauty of the Lake District is the result of thousands of years of industry and agricultural development of the spectacular natural landscape of mountains, valleys, lakes and woodland.

2)    Inspiration: The beauty of the Lake District inspired artists and writers of the Picturesque and Romantic movements and generated ideas about landscape that have had global influence.

3)    Conservation: The Lake District has been enjoyed and valued by visitors for more than 250 years. Concern to protect it was the inspiration for the birth of the conservation movement, including the National Trust and protected areas including UK National Parks.

 

UK puts forward Jodrell Bank Observatory as 2019 World Heritage nomination

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s300_Lovell_image_govuk

Jodrell Bank Observatory has been chosen as the UK’s nomination for World Heritage site status in 2019, Heritage Minister Michael Ellis announced today.

The Observatory, part of the University of Manchester, is home to the Grade I Listed Lovell Telescope and is a site of global importance in the history of radio astronomy.

Founded in 1945, it is the earliest radio astronomy observatory in the world still in existence and pioneered the exploration of the universe using radio waves.

The UK currently has 31 World Heritage Sites, with The Lake District having been inscribed in 2017.

In order to be inscribed as a World Heritage Site, nominations must show that they possess Outstanding Universal Value, which transcends borders.

The nomination will now be formally assessed by the International Council of Sites and Monuments before the World Heritage Committee decides whether it will join the likes of The Great Barrier Reef, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China as a designated World Heritage Site.

Jodrell Bank is the only site in the world that includes evidence of every stage of the post-1945 development of radio astronomy. As well as the Lovell Telescope, it also includes the Grade I Listed Mark II Telescope and the Park Royal building, which was the control room for the Transit Telescope, whose detection of radio waves from the Andromeda Galaxy confirmed that the Universe extends beyond our own galaxy.

Michael Ellis, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, said:

“Jodrell Bank played a central role in transforming our understanding of the Universe and is therefore a site of global importance.

“The nomination process for UNESCO is rightly thorough but I believe Jodrell Bank deserves to be recognised.

“The diverse heritage of the UK is world renowned and the observatory would be a worthy addition to our list of World Heritage Sites.”

Professor Teresa Anderson, Director of Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre said:

“The Jodrell Bank Observatory, and Lovell Telescope in particular, have become icons of science and engineering around the world and we’re delighted to reach this milestone. We have been preparing the case for nomination for inclusion of Jodrell Bank on the World Heritage list for several years now and we look forward to showcasing its rich scientific heritage on the international stage.”

Professor Tim O’Brien, Associate Director of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, said:

“Jodrell Bank really is an iconic site and institution, not just here in the northwest of England but to people around the world.

“It is the one remaining site, worldwide which has been a working observatory from the very first days of radio astronomy to the present day. It’s important that we protect its rich heritage as we celebrate its current and future work.”

Last year the Government announced it will award £4 million to Jodrell Bank to help fund its new interpretation centre project, promoting the historically significant scientific work.