Last edited 01 Oct 2023

World heritage site

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[edit] Introduction

A World Heritage Site (WHS) 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.

The list was initiated following the World Heritage Convention in 1972 and includes a variety of sites such as landscapes, cities, monuments, technological sites and modern buildings.

[edit] Current list

As of 2015, there are 1031 sites listed which includes:

  • 802 cultural.
  • 197 natural.
  • 32 mixed.

In the UK, there are 29 listed sites including; 24 for culture, 4 for nature and 1 mixed. This includes Canterbury Cathedral, Hadrian’s Wall, the city of Bath and Stonehenge.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

In the UK, according to government policy, all sites must have a World Heritage Site management plan in place to ensure they are managed sustainably.

[edit] Planning control

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.

World Heritage Sites are considered to be ‘sensitive areas’ for the determining whether an Environmental Impact Assessment is required for a development.

[edit] World heritage site buffer zone

High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Environmental Statement, Glossary, abbreviations and references, published by the Department for Transport in 2022, defines world heritage site buffer zone as: ‘…area surrounding a world heritage site that gives an added layer of protection to the site. They include the immediate setting of the nominated site, important views and other areas or attributes that are functionally important as a support to the site and its protection. Buffer zones are not formally a part of the inscribed world heritage site, however, they are required to have restrictions placed on development within them.’

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings

[edit] External references


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