THE UK Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, has started a consultation on World Heritage Sites. The move comes just a few months after the Roman Antonine Wall – which runs through Bo’ness – was named as the UK’s latest World Heritage Site. At the time it was warmly welcomed as a boost for local tourism, particularly for historic Kinneil Estate, which boasts a Roman fortlet.
The consultation, “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?
Mr 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’. On the tentative list is the Forth Rail Bridge in nearby Queensferry.
Bo’ness Councillor Adrian Mahoney welcomed the consultation. He said World Heritage Status had been a boost to the Bo’ness aea. “Having a World Heritage Site has been a good thing for this area, and made more people aware of the fantastic history we have on our doorsteps,” he said. “The Forth Rail Bridge in Queensferry is being touted as a possible future World Heritage Site. I’d certainly be supportive of that bid as it will bring more people to the whole Forth Valley area. It’s certainly an iconic structure that’s known around the world.”
He added: “There are costs in applying for World Heritage Status, but I think there’s also lots of benefits for areas that are successful, too, particularly in terms of attracting tourists and boosting the local economy. “I hope that people would respond to the UK Government’s consultation and share their experiences.”
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.
Take part in the consultation here
(Pictured above right, Andy Burnham, the UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport. Picture and portions of text – crown copyright.)