UK to put forward ‘fewer and fitter’ places for future UNESCO World Heritage Site designation

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22 January 2010

A competition to find more cultural and natural heritage places of global importance , which are fit to become future UK World Heritage Sites, was launched today by Culture Minister Margaret Hodge.  In future the Government will put forward fewer sites for consideration by UNESCO, with a streamlined application system to help ensure success.

Local authorities, and others, throughout the UK including the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies will have the opportunity to nominate such sites for assessment by an independent expert panel.  A new ‘Tentative List’ of candidate sites will then be drawn up for submission to UNESCO in 2011, with the first nomination going forward from 2012.  Those on the last UK Tentative List, drawn up in 1999, which have not so far gone forward for consideration by UNESCO, will be able to apply again for inclusion on the new list.

Margaret Hodge said:

“To be designated a World Heritage Site is a real honour and a rare privilege.  It can bring social and economic benefits to areas chosen, and it’s great for tourism, promoting the profile of our cultural and natural heritage to the world in an eye-catching way.  But bidding for World Heritage status carries a cost, and we want to be sure that public resources are well deployed.  So, in future, we want a process that ensures that 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.”

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Notes to Editors

The Government conducted a review of its UK World Heritage Policy in consultation with Devolved Administrations, Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies in December 2008. The aim was to help determine whether the UK should continue to nominate sites for World Heritage status and what more we should do for existing sites. The review considered the UK’s approach to World Heritage, the costs and benefits of World Heritage status, informed by research undertaken by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), on the management, protection and funding of sites, and the policy for future nominations.

The review was undertaken in the light of the need to re-examine the UK Tentative List of sites for future nominations, published in 1999, in line with UNESCO policy and increasing pressure from other UK sites wishing to seek World Heritage designation to be included on the Tentative List. At the same time UNESCO has asked that countries well represented on the current World Heritage List to slow down the submission of nominations in order to address thematic gaps on the List and the imbalance between the number of cultural and natural sites and sites in developed and developing nations on the List.

Following this consultation, the Government has now decided to proceed to draw up a new UK Tentative List. The current List is now closed and applications will be invited shortly from all sites who seek a place on the new one. Many of the remaining sites on the current Tentative List have not actively pursued World Heritage status for some years. They may no longer have local support or may stand little realistic chance of inscription. Those sites which do still wish to progress to nomination should apply for a place on the new list, if they believe they can meet the tests set out in the application process. Those sites which really do have the required attributes will have a good chance of a place on the new UK Tentative List.

An application form, accompanied by guidance on how to complete it, will be published shortly. It will cover all the essential evaluation criteria so that it will be possible to determine whether sites have the qualities necessary for successful designation as a World Heritage Site and can meet UNESCO’s aspirations for the future of the World Heritage List. We are appointing an independent expert panel to advise Ministers on the applications.  The selection process will be rigorous, aimed at discouraging, at an early stage, those applications which are unlikely to succeed. The cost of preparing nominations is significant, so sites which do not clearly meet the tests should be informed of this at an early stage, thereby to avoid wasting resources in preparing nominations which will not meet UNESCO’s requirements.

The Government proposes to submit a new Tentative List to UNESCO in 2011, with a view to re-commencing nominating from 2012.  Following this, it proposes to continue to make nominations to the World Heritage List, though not necessarily every year.

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