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Andy Burnham launches debate on the future designation of World Heritage sites in the UK

Andy Burnham launches debate on the future designation of World Heritage sites in the UK

DEPARTMENT FOR CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT News Release (130/2008) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 2 December 2008

From the lofty spires of Westminster Abbey to the rugged beauty of the Giant's Causeway and the Causeway Coast, how best do we protect the UK's World Heritage Sites? asks a consultation launched today by Culture Secretary Andy Burnham.

'Identifying, protecting and promoting our World Heritage' seeks views on questions such as:

* Should we add further sites to the World Heritage List at the same - or a slower - rate, or stop nominations all together?

* What are the costs, benefits and responsibilities that go with designation? Is it worth having?

* What are the measures that we can take to clarify and strengthen protection for World Heritage Sites?

* Does the UK's current approach to World Heritage support the UK, crown dependencies and overseas territories in protecting and promoting their cultural and national heritage, particularly in relation to UNESCO?

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said:

"We live our lives against a rich tapestry of historic buildings, cities, monuments and landscapes. They help us understand how our world and its cultures, communities and traditions were formed. So it is important that they are protected for future generations.

"In the UK and our overseas territories we are lucky to have 27 sites on the World Heritage List, from the world renowned like Stonehenge to the less well known but equally significant Ironbridge Gorge, the birthplace of modern industry.

"But it is now ten years since we last looked at the UK policy on nominations to World Heritage Sites. Set against a backdrop of increasing nominations, a request from UNESCO for well represented countries to slow nominations and an evolving selection criteria I feel it is the right time for the UK to review its World Heritage Policy."

There are currently 27 World Heritage Sites in the UK and its overseas territories, forming part of the wider World Heritage List of 851 cultural and national heritage sites recognised by UNESCO as being of outstanding value.

At present all nominations added to the World Heritage List are taken from the UK Tentative List - a shortlist of sites, updated every ten years, which have been judged by the UK to fulfil the criteria demanded by UNESCO in order to be recognised as being of 'outstanding value'.

In the 10 years since the UK last drew-up it's Tentative List UNESCO have asked member states well represented on the World Heritage List - mainly European countries including the UK - to slow down or suspend their nominations. More recently, in 2005, it was recommended that priority would be given to specific land or marine habitats such as grasslands, wetlands or deserts. In some cases UNESCO named sites such as the artic tundra, central Asian Deserts or the Chagos Archipelago which, if nominated, would be very likely to be added to the World Heritage List.

Ahead of today's consultation, DCMS with its funding partners Historic Scotland and Cadw commissioned a cost benefit analysis of World Heritage Site status.

Undertaken by Price WaterhouseCoopers, the report involved interviews with stakeholders, an e-survey of all UK sites, and six case studies of representative sites and associated local opinion surveys.

The review is published today alongside the consultation paper. Key findings include:

* WHS status does not in itself provide any additional statutory protection, although the quality of development around such sites may be superior.

* Costs are rising - currently up to £400,000 to bid for World Heritage Site (WHS) status and £150,000 p.a to maintain

* Benefits of tourism and regeneration arising from WHS status have been overstated, with very low percentages of visitors being aware of such status or motivated by it.

* While additional funding often follows inscription, much of this comes from UK heritage or conservation bodies - benefit for WHS is at the expense of heritage sites elsewhere.

The consultation will run for 12 weeks until 24 February 2008. Copies of the consultation document and PricewaterhouseCooper report can be downloaded from:

Notes to Editors


Notes to editors

1. The UK joined the UNESCO World Heritage Convention in 1984. The Convention established the World Heritage List as a means of recognising that some places, both natural and cultural, are of sufficient importance to be the responsibility of the international community as a whole. By joining the Convention, nation states are pledged to care for the World Heritage Sites in their territory as part of protecting their national heritage, as well as to protection of their cultural and natural heritage as a whole.

2. The UK currently has 27 World Heritage Sites:

* Durham Cathedral and Castle (inscribed 1986)

* Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd (1986)

* Studley Royal Park including the ruins of Fountains Abbey (1986)

* St Kilda (1986 extended in 2004 and 2005) (natural and cultural)

* Giant's Causeway and Causeway coast (1986) (natural site)

* Ironbridge Gorge (1986)

* Stonehenge, Avebury and associated sites (1986)

* Blenheim Palace and Park (1987)

* Palace of Westminster, St Margaret's Church and Westminster Abbey (1987)

* City of Bath (1987)

* Frontiers of the Roman Empire: Hadrian's Wall (1987, extended in 2005)

* The Tower of London (1988)

* Canterbury Cathedral (with St Augustine's Abbey and St Martin's Church) (1988)

* Henderson Island, South Pacific Ocean (1988) (natural site)

* Edinburgh Old and New Towns (1995)

* Gough and Inaccessible Islands, South Atlantic Ocean (1995, extended 2004) (natural site)

* Maritime Greenwich (1997)

* Heart of Neolithic Orkney (1999)

* Historic Town of St George and Related Fortifications Bermuda (2000)

* Blaenavon Industrial Landscape (2000)

* Dorset and East Devon Coast (2001) (natural site)

* Derwent Valley Mills (2001)

* New Lanark (2001)

* Saltaire (2001)

* Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (2003)

* Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City (2004)

* Cornwall and East Devon Mining Landscape (2006)

3. In addition, we have already announced our proposed nominations for the next four years which are as follows:

* Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal - nominated in January 2008 for consideration in July 2009

* Darwin's Landscape Laboratory - to be re-submitted in January 2009 for consideration in July 2010;

* Twin Monastery of Wearmouth and Jarrow - to be nominated in January 2010 for consideration in July 2011.

4. The sites which remain on our 1999 Tentative List are:

* Chatham Naval Dockyard

* Darwin's Landscape Laboratory

* The Lake District

* Manchester, Trafford and Salford

* The New Forest

* Great Western Railway

* Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

* Shakespeare's Stratford

* Twin Monastery at Wearmouth and Jarrow

* Wash and North Norfolk Coast

* The Cairngorm Mountains

* The Forth Rail Bridge

* Mount Stewart Gardens

* Fountains Cavern, Anguilla

* The Fortress of Gibraltar

5. Press enquires to Sally Aldous on 020 7211 6266. Copies of the consultation document and PricewaterhouseCooper report can be downloaded from:

Public enquiries 020 7211 6200

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