Stonehenge © English Heritage
Culture Secretary Andy Burnham has launched a scheme examining the UK’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The UK and its overseas territories are home to 27 of the 851 World Heritage Sites including Stonehenge, Canterbury Cathedral and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, chosen by initial placement on a tentative list which is updated every ten years. The sites have to be judged by the UK as meeting the UNESCO criteria in order to be recognised as being of "outstanding value".
The Identifying, Protecting and Promoting Our World Heritage consultation, which runs until February 24, will question whether further sites should be added to the World Heritage List, as well as the costs, benefits and responsibilities of designation and what can be done to strengthen protection for World Heritage Sites.
"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," said Mr Burnham.
"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."
© RBG Kew
A report by Price WaterhouseCoopers investigated the UK’s current sites and possibilities for future nominations through interviews with stakeholders, e-surveys at sites, a series of six case studies and local opinion surveys.
The report found that World Heritage Sites receive no additional protection after they are designated, the cost of maintaining existing sites and nominating future sites has risen and that other heritage sites around the country are missing out on vital funding from UK heritage and conservation bodies as funds are directed towards the UNESCO designated sites.
In recent years UNESCO has asked European countries, including the UK, to slow down their nominations for WHS, and in 2005 suggested that priority should be given to environments such as grass, wetland and desert.
Copies of the consultation document and Price WaterhouseCoopers report can be downloaded from www.culture.gov.uk