(Above) UK gems aiming to join the Statue of Liberty as a World Heritage Site will have to endure a more stringent process under new government plans
The government has tightened the selection process for potential UK World Heritage Sites in a bid to find "sure-fire winners" from a "more focused" shortlist.
A smaller Tentative List of locations will be put forward to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for the first time since 1999, with an independent panel judging nominations from local authorities.
"Being designated as a World Heritage Site is a real honour and a rare privilege," said Culture Minister Margaret Hodge, citing the social, economic and tourism benefits of the scheme.
"Bidding for World Heritage status carries a cost, and we want to be sure that public resources are well deployed. In future, we want a process that ensures only sure-fire winners with outstanding universal value go forward.
"This means we will make fewer nominations, selecting sites from a new, shorter and more focused list."
Sites aiming to enter will receive an application form and a "rigorous" set of selection criteria. Unsuitable nominees will be informed at an earlier stage to reduce the "significant" costs of preparing bids.
The decision follows a detailed review carried out by Pricewaterhouse Coopers in December 2008. Candidate sites will be submitted to UNESCO in 2011 and officially nominated in 2012.