World heritage site
A World Heritage Site is a site that has been inscribed by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) on its World Heritage List. In order to qualify, it must be of outstanding universal cultural or natural value (or both). The age of a site is irrelevant.
 Current list
As of 2015, there are 1031 sites listed which includes:
- 802 cultural.
- 197 natural.
- 32 mixed.
 Inscription process
The first stage to becoming a World Heritage Site is the inscribing of the site on the prospective list held by the government. Each year, every country is eligible to propose a single site from the prospective list for consideration for inscription onto the Wold Heritage List.
This requires extensive preparatory work, as the inscription process means that a site has to demonstrate how it meets one or more of UNESCO’s ten criteria for eligibility. If a site is successful, it means that it is recognised as being of outstanding value to humanity as a whole.
 Monitoring and management of a site
Any sites listed on the World Heritage List are monitored by UNESCO to ensure their preservation. If a site is considered to be under threat, for example from neglect or wilful destruction, it can be added to the World Heritage in Danger List. This highlights the site to the international community and also means the site becomes eligible for financial support from the World Heritage Fund. It is also possible, in severe circumstances, that UNESCO can revoke World Heritage status if it has lost the qualities that made it outstanding.
Through being designated as a World Heritage Site, no additional statutory controls are afforded the site. However, the planning system gives protection, as well as other designations (listed buildings, scheduled monuments etc).
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) defines a World Heritage Site as a designated heritage asset and therefore weight should be given to its conservation and development that results in substantial harm or loss to the site should be avoided wherever possible. It may also be necessary to protect the setting of a site, for example through a buffer zone where there are restrictions on development.
Where a development is proposed that may affect a World Heritage Site, information will be required with an application to enable an assessment of impact on Outstanding Universal Value. This could include a visual impact assessment, archaeological data or historical information. It is often part of an Environmental Statement.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki.
- Conservation area.
- Conservation in the heritage cities of Venice and Liverpool.
- Designated areas.
- Edinburgh world heritage site valued at over 1 billion.
- Heritage definition.
- International heritage policy.
- Landscapes of human exploitation.
- Listed building.
- Natural resource.
- Scheduled monuments.
- Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI).
- Sites of special scientific interest SSSI.
- Special areas of conservation.
- Special protection areas.
- Stonehenge tunnel.
- Types of land.
- Urban Heritage, Development and Sustainability.
 External references
Find the office locations of HESPR members – IHBC’s Historic Environment Service Provider Recognition (HESPR) scheme – using our map-based facility.
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