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Cultural Heritage Ethics

Constantine Sandis

IV. Management and Protection

12. Values in World Heritage Sites

Geoffrey Belcher

Texte intégral

1. Introduction

1It is helpful to begin with an explanation of the concept and evolution of ‘World Heritage’ as adopted by UNESCO, the United Nations Environmental, Social and Cultural Organisation which is ‘building peace in the minds of men and women’.

2In the late 1950s, after the building of the Aswan Dam flooded the Nile Valley, destroying many ancient sites, international concern about places of world significance focused on Egypt. Among the country’s countless historic sites, the most famous was the temple of Abu Simbel, with its four giant statues of the great pharaoh Rameses II. As a result of the concerns raised by the flood, international aid was gathered to fund an ambitious scheme to cut the temple’s stonework and relocate it to higher ground away from the rising waters. The archaeological and aesthetic legitimacy of this action may have been questioned in subsequent years, but the event did ignite a process that eventually led, via an initiative in the United States, to the establishment in 1972 of the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.1

3The World Heritage list was readily drawn up in these early years to include the most obvious places of world interest such as the Taj Mahal in India, the Mesa Verde National Park in the USA, and the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. As the idea of the list has evolved, a greater variety of Sites has been added, whilst the process of inscription and management of these World Heritage Sites has become much more rigorous.

  • 2 See

4Today, a Site can only be inscribed on the list if the World Heritage Committee agrees that it meets one or more of the ten criteria listed in the World Heritage Convention Operational Guidelines (2005),2 which can be paraphrased as follows:

  1. To represent a masterpiece of human creative genius.
  2. To exhibit an important interchange of human values.
  3. To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition.
  4. To be an outstanding example of a type of building.
  5. To be an outstanding example of traditional human settlement.
  6. To be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions.
  7. To contain superlative natural phenomena.
  8. To be outstanding examples representing major stages of Earth’s history.
  9. To be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes.
  10. To contain the most important and significant natural habitats.

5The first six of these criteria may be considered to apply to cultural Sites, and the remainder to natural Sites, although some Sites are in the dual category of ‘cultural landscape’. As we will see, UNESCO have broadened their approach to inscription over the last few years, and as a consequence the World Heritage list now includes ‘properties’ of hugely varying character, from places of great architectural beauty such as the Taj Mahal to places linked with significant historical events, including Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland and Hiroshima in Japan. Natural Sites, meanwhile, include places ranging from the Great Barrier Reef and Shark Bay in Australia to Yellowstone National Park in the USA.

6Participating nation states (State Parties) may put forward one cultural and one natural Site for World Heritage status annually, but the UNESCO Conservation Committee’s selection process is by no means straightforward. The United Kingdom has had to withdraw nominations for Charles Darwin’s Cultural Landscape in Kent, and Wearmouth and Jarrow in the county of Tyne and Wear (associated with the Venerable Bede) in the last few years because the cases, which relied strongly on association with an important historical figure, were not considered robust enough. At present the number of UK locations listed as World Heritage Sites remains at 28.

7The individual characteristics of each Site mean that their management varies and may involve a wide range of issues. At present UNESCO World Heritage Sites have little status in national heritage-protection legislation, and as a result management plans, which are a UNESCO requirement for the protection of the Sites, have only a limited statutory basis. Moreover, many Sites contain private land and enterprises, and so must include elements of a business plan. These issues will be discussed further below.

2. The Wider Value of Heritage

8The modern appreciation of the value of historic sites can be traced back to the Renaissance, when architects began to adapt classical ruins in order to develop new architectural styles. Subsequently, in the eighteenth century, the Grand Tour of Italian and Greek archaeological sites became de rigueur for young aristocrats. Unfortunately, plundering of artefacts by these eighteenth-century tourists was rife, but their experiences also encouraged the use of classical elements in the ‘Palladian’ style, which produced buildings of great elegance. The nineteenth century, meanwhile, saw the introduction of a more formal concern with the protection of the historical legacy, and the founding of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings represents a milestone in this regard. Throughout the heritage world, a more rational approach was increasingly taken to the recording of historic sites and objects both above and below the ground. In the case of field archaeology, this meant the establishment in the early twentieth century of highly rigorous excavation procedures designed to prevent the cavalier treasure hunting and consequent destruction of the historic context of such ‘finds’ that had been widespread since the eighteenth century.

9In Britain, the value of historic buildings was further recognised with a number of studies, such as the on-going ‘Survey of London’ (founded in the 1890s), which documented buildings of historic interest, often shortly before they were destroyed to make way for development. By the twentieth century, historic towns had become an accepted part of the British national culture, although without any specific designation. Ironically their recognition at an international level in the Baedeker guides (founded in 1827) led to some of them (Bath, Norwich, Exeter) being targeted by the Luftwaffe in the early bombing raids of World War II. It appears that these initial raids were aimed at places of cultural rather than military significance, indicating the Nazis’ assumption that heritage occupied a special place in the British psyche.

  • 3 Department of the Environment Planning Circular 46/73.

10In the wake of the Second World War, innovations in town planning in the UK were driven by a generation sick of the restrictions of war, fed on the 1930s dream of a ‘modern’ life of convenience and leisure. Their approach to town planning was shaped by the ‘Brave New World’ visions of Le Corbusier’s designs for new cities, including Paris, as well as the more prosaic example of the ‘Arts and Crafts’ Garden Cities of Welwyn and Letchworth. The establishment of the Town Planning Act in 1948 introduced the idea of ‘development plans’, which aimed at holistic redevelopment to celebrate the post-war age. Unfortunately, the first development plans were disappointingly dull, being based on the narrow concerns of road widening and other service considerations, rather than any more general vision for an improved way of life. As a result, many of the ‘new environments’ created in the 1950s and 1960s were a failure – the tower blocks of the period, for example, are now recognised to be unsuitable for everyday life in the UK, while the destruction of familiar town centres had a negative impact on quality of life. These failures gave rise to a growing popular interest in the wider historic environment, and there was a widespread reaction against the unwanted changes. Groups of enthusiasts saved rashly-closed railway branch lines, canals and the like, and in the late 1960s the growing concern for the country’s historic environment was acknowledged by central government with the introduction of the 1967 Civic Amenities Act, which brought in the concept of ‘Conservation Areas’. The first such areas were based on historic town centres and consisted of tight groups of historic buildings. However, the success of this new concept led to its being extended to cover wider areas after 1973 when the idea of ‘the familiar and cherished local scene’– that is areas not just made up of historic buildings – was accepted as a basis for designation.3 Just as the late 1940s ushered in a new optimism about a ‘Brave New World’ of town planning, the 1970s, despite being ‘the decade that taste forgot’, produced a raft of Conservation Areas which safeguarded many town centres against the rampant redevelopment that had decimated traditional places even more extensively than the Blitz.

11This was in keeping with the general re-evaluation of many aspects of everyday life that took place in the 1970s. The popular television programme ‘The Good Life’ represented a new-found appreciation for traditionally-grown food. The Arts and Crafts movement resurfaced with a revival of hand-made goods and the beginnings of what we would now call ‘localism’, something also apparent in the resurgence of markets, full of local and specialist produce. Disillusionment with bland, industrial products not only contributed to the emergence of interest in ‘classic cars’, but also led the Ford Motor Company to produce ‘customisable’ Cortinas which offered so many permutations that it was almost as if no two cars were the same – although they all rusted in the same way. It all seemed to represent the pursuit of stability and lasting values in a rapidly changing world.

12In the 1980s, the increasingly widespread Conservation Areas became very fashionable, with estate agents in particular promoting them as desirable places to live. Local Conservation Area Advisory Committees were set up to give the local community a say in their management, although most members seem to have been primarily concerned with protecting their enhanced property values, rather than with championing aesthetic and historic considerations.

13The decade also saw a revival of ‘cultural tourism’. Package holidays in the Spanish sun were no longer enough for many, and instead travellers increasingly sought out destinations that were of historical interest. It is unclear whether tourists were particularly attracted to World Heritage Sites at this stage, but many Sites have certainly been branded as tourist destinations in recent years.

14With such a swell of public concern and interest in heritage it was inevitable that some form of categorisation and stability would eventually become necessary. This process is illustrated by the case of the market for ‘classic cars’ (only defined as such in the 1970s), in which prices reached dizzy heights in the 1990s, before crashing. Cars with a historical association, such as those that had won the Le Mans race, had a special value, but given the probability that such a machine would have gone through several body and engine changes over the course of time, the meaning of this association was open to question, and court cases were even fought over the right to display a chassis plate with the ‘historic’ numbers of a revered car. It was time to rationalise the position, and this ushered in a more widespread concern for authenticity and integrity, as illustrated by the rise of the so-called ‘oily-rag’ approach to classic car maintenance.

15With the rise of interest in classic cars from the 1970s, concours d’elegance meetings rapidly generated a breed of restoration that owed more to gloss than originality. Restoration became more ‘re-creation’ at the expense of a vehicle’s patina of age. The issues are fascinating. If a vehicle is to be made roadworthy it must have appropriate tyres, and inevitably these will be modern since tyres produced thirty years ago or more will have decayed (indeed, there have been tragic cases where fastidious owners suffered fatal accidents caused by blow-outs of their ancient rubber tyres). Brake systems have similar problems: whilst the risks of using an out-dated braking system may be acceptable in the case of a veteran car doing at best 30 miles per hour, they cannot be accepted in the case of an E-type Jaguar which can reach 150 miles per hour. Modern traffic is much faster and much busier than in the classic cars’ heyday, and so it also makes sense to carry out upgrades on suspension, cooling systems and so-on, to create a vehicle happy with the modern environment. With all the underpinnings upgraded, why not make use of modern paints to improve the finish? A clean engine bay is nice, but why not chromium-plate the air filters to add a touch of sparkle? It is easy to see how the glossy look-a-likes at the Pebble Beach concours in California were conceived, but a backlash against this modernising approach was inevitable.

16This backlash has taken the form of a strong drive in the last few years to recognise the qualities of unrestored cars which display a patina of time. As outlined above, there will always be compromises, including the use of modern fuels and oils, but the use of an oily rag to give cover to rusty metal and keep parts lubricated can keep a vehicle on the road with a minimum of ‘restoration’. This ‘oily-rag’ treatment of classic cars is now increasingly popular, ensuring that the originality (admittedly still a difficult concept) of the machine is accepted and its completeness is such that a simple clean will enable it to function as it was designed to. After all, in some cases any intervention into the historic fabric of a vehicle would destroy not only its patina of age, but an essential connection to the car’s history. The Austin-Healey that was involved in the tragic accident at the 1955 Le Mans race which killed more than eighty people was recently sold for an enormous sum, despite being in poor condition. (Although in this case the car had, in fact, been repaired immediately after the accident, so its ‘historic’ fabric associated with the race had already been modified.) A Frazer-Nash which had spent seventy years resting on the bottom of a Swiss lake also attracted an enormous bid, despite being little more than a rusty fragment.

17These sales point to perhaps the most interesting aspect of the historic vehicle world – its active marketplace and the way considerations of originality and historical association affect a car’s market value. Whilst a thorough restoration of a classic car including upgrades to achieve modern driving standards still attracts a premium, prices for unrestored vehicles capable of ‘oily-rag’ treatment are increasingly approaching such premiums. Evidently ‘historical association’ carries considerable importance in the valuation of classic cars, whereas this aspect appears to be much less significant in the evaluation of potential Sites in the World Heritage context.

3. Values in World Heritage Sites

18This process of rationalisation and identification of values has also found its way into the arena of World Heritage. All proposals for new World Heritage Sites must now be accompanied by a ‘Statement of Outstanding Universal Value’ (SoOUV). Such statements are also being prepared for Sites already inscribed.

  • 4 Report of the World Heritage Global Strategy Natural and Cultural Heritage Expert Meeting, 25-29 M (...)

19This recognition of ‘outstanding universal value’ means that Sites are seen as part of the world heritage of mankind as a whole, and as such deserve to be protected and transmitted to future generations. The concept of OUV now underpins the whole World Heritage Convention and all activities associated with inscribed properties. The 1998 Global Strategy meeting in Amsterdam proposed a definition of OUV as ‘an outstanding response to issues of universal nature common to or addressed by all cultures’.4 OUV means cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity. At the 2005 UNESCO Special Expert Meeting in Kazan on the concept of OUV it was put forward that ‘definition and application of OUV are made by people and will be subject to evolution over time’, thereby recognising that the process of nomination for World Heritage is taking place in the context of a continually broadening definition of cultural heritage. The idea of fixed reference points over time is not necessarily possible nor even desirable. A reshaping of cultural heritage is taking place in every country and is linked directly or indirectly to the application of the World Heritage Convention. This means that over the years since the first inscriptions, new types of cultural heritage have been recognised, nominated for inscription and in many cases inscribed on the list. What remains fixed are the criteria accepted by the World Heritage Committee as justification of OUV at the time of inscription. Retrospective preparation of a SoOUV must therefore be undertaken according to those past criteria, and so the work involves a certain element of ‘going back in time’.

20In sum, the SoOUV sets out not individual qualities, but the totality of qualities that together give a property OUV. The SoOUV thus overarches the whole management and conservation of a property, since management of each Site must be focused on sustaining the OUV for which it was inscribed. The SoOUV is also the essential reference point for:

Periodic reporting
Potential reactive monitoring
Possible danger listing (in 2012 Liverpool and the Tower of London were placed on the Danger List by UNESCO)
Deletion (Dresden was removed from the World Heritage list by UNESCO in 2005)

21The Statement of Outstanding Universal Value is therefore of great benefit to the relevant State Party and to all stakeholders involved in the management of a World Heritage property. It not only facilitates a clear understanding of what has been inscribed on the list and why it has OUV, but also gives direction to management of the Site by indicating which of the property’s attributes need to be maintained in order to sustain its OUV.

4. The Content of the Statement of Outstanding Value

22The SoOUV should contain the following: A brief synthesis including a summary description and summary of values and attributes:

  1. Criteria (the UNESCO criteria according to which the Site is inscribed, see above).
  2. The Authenticity of the Site.
  3. The Integrity of the Site.
  4. Management demanded to sustain the OUV through an overall framework and long-term expectations.

(i) Criteria

23The criteria listed earlier in this paper are the current versions. The use of the criteria has only been mandatory since 2002, and in the case of some early Sites (43%), nominations were made by State Parties without reference to any criteria. Moreover, it is important to recognise that these criteria have changed and evolved over time and, as mentioned previously, retrospective statements of OUV must be made against those criteria in operation at the time of inscription.

  • 5 The criteria are listed in full in the UNESCO Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the (...)

24UNESCO have subtly modified the cultural criteria several times since 1977.5 For example, in 1977 criterion i was stated as ‘represents a unique artistic or aesthetic achievement, a masterpiece of creative genius’. By 1983 the ‘or aesthetic’ had been removed. Maritime Greenwich is an example of inscription under criterion i (inscribed 1997).

25The evolution of criterion ii was more significant. In 1977 it read ‘have exerted considerable influence over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world on subsequent developments in architecture, monumental sculpture, garden design and landscape design, related arts or human settlements’. By 1996 this had been changed to ‘exhibit an important interchange of human values over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town planning or landscape design’. This effectively expanded the criterion and opened the door to World Heritage Sites based on technological advances. Examples of inscription under criterion ii include the Ruins of the Buddhist Vihara at Paharpur, Bangladesh (1985), and later the Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works in Chile (2005) and the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape of south Wales (2003), both of which were inscribed under the revised version of the criterion.

26Criterion iii was also expanded. In 1977 it referred to Sites being ‘unique, extremely rare, or of great antiquity’, but by 1996 this had become ‘bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilisation which is living or which has disappeared’. Messa Verde National Park was inscribed under the earlier criterion but the enlarged wording covering cultural landscapes, a testimony to evolving traditions, saw the Stone Circles of Senegambia and Senegal inscribed in 2006.

27In 1977 criterion iv required that Sites ‘be among the most characteristic examples of a type of structure, the type representing an important cultural, social, artistic, scientific, technological or industrial development’. This was tightened in 1996 to ‘be an outstanding example of a type of building or architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history’. Examples of the changing Sites inscribed under criterion iv include the Silver Mines of Potosi, Bolivia (1987) and the Town Houses of Victor Horta, Belgium (2000).

28Criterion v stated in 1977 that a Site should ‘be a characteristic example of a significant traditional style of architecture, method of construction, or human settlement that is fragile by nature or has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible socio-cultural or economic change’. By 2005 this had been limited to ‘be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change’. The historic city of Kairouan in Tunisia (1988) was inscribed under the earlier criterion, while the Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila, Mexico (2006) were inscribed under the modified version.

29Criterion vi stated in 1980 that Sites should ‘be directly or tangibly associated with events or with ideas or beliefs of outstanding universal significance’, altered in 2005 to ‘be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance’– yet another opening up of a criterion.

(ii) Authenticity

30There is sometimes confusion between the concepts of authenticity and integrity. Authenticity is the link between attributes and outstanding universal value. This link must be truthfully and credibly expressed on the basis of verifiable sources of information.

31Before 2005 the test of authenticity referred to four attributes: design, material, workmanship and setting. That is, only tangible aspects of heritage were included. Since 2005, however, intangible heritage has been included in assessments of authenticity, so that the test now includes form and setting, materials and substance, use and function, traditions, techniques and management systems, location and setting, language, spirit and feeling. Thus a much broader range of attributes that might carry OUV can be identified. This is a very significant shift away from the tangible.

32As an example, the OUV of an urban area might be carried by the following attributes: structures, spatial plans, traditions and living communities, a socio-economic whole working collaboratively. Authenticity relates to how well these attributes reflect OUV, and can be compromised if the attributes are weak – if communities cease to thrive, buildings collapse or traditions disappear. A statement of authenticity should therefore say whether the relevant attributes are thriving, and convey their message credibly and truthfully.

(iii) Integrity

33The concept of integrity can be applied to both natural and cultural properties, although since 2005 it has only been applied to cultural properties. Integrity is the completeness/intactness of the attributes that carry OUV, a measure of the wholeness of the property. Are all the elements necessary to express the property’s OUV included within its boundaries? Is the property of adequate size to ensure the complete representation of the features and processes which convey the property’s significance? Does the property suffer adverse effects from development or neglect? A statement of integrity needs to answer these questions, stating whether the collection of attributes that carry OUV are all contained within the property’s boundaries, that no parts have lost these attributes, and that the attributes are not under threat.

(iv) Protection and Management

34The attributes that convey OUV need to be maintained, conserved, managed and protected in order to sustain a property’s OUV. Statements need to be set out demonstrating how this is to be achieved in both the long and the short term.

5. The Practice of Managing a World Heritage Site

35The evolution of definitions, along with the widening of the criteria, has produced a much more rational inscription process. However, while the concept of OUV may appear straightforward, in practice the definitions of concomitant values can prove difficult. For example, in the case of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, the historic tea clipper the Cutty Sark, located at the heart of the Site, would seem to be highly significant and deserving of Attribute of OUV status. This is especially the case given that the ship is cherished locally, is recognised at a national level with its Grade 1 listing, and is even known internationally as the last surviving clipper. However, despite the ship being an historic building on the statutory list, because it is movable, English Heritage, interpreting the UNESCO criteria, refuse to support it as an Attribute of OUV.

6. Management of World Heritage Sites

36While UNESCO, an international agency, is responsible for inscribing World Heritage Sites, responsibility for their management and protection lies with the nation states of the participating countries. In the United Kingdom this role is undertaken by the central government’s Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS). DCMS is advised by the UK branch of the International Council for Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), English Heritage and its equivalents in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

37A prerequisite for inscription is the preparation and adoption of a World Heritage Site management plan. In most cases this is prepared locally by a steering group consisting of local organisations and interests, with the help of national advisory bodies. Management plans have to be approved by the UNESCO Conservation Committee but this body’s infrequent meetings (once every 6 months) and its consequent bulky agendas mean that full discussion of the plans for each Site is rare. However, UNESCO has also put in place a system of ‘Periodic Reporting’ which demands that each Site be the subject of an assessment every 5 years. This assessment considers the state of the Site and the management of its attributes in order to identify issues of concern. Where problems become significant in advance of this process, UNESCO acts swiftly by sending a delegation of inspectors to assess the situation. This can lead to a Site being placed on the ‘World Heritage Sites in Danger List’, as is currently the case with Liverpool in the UK. In extreme cases, where threats have been identified and no remedial action has been taken, UNESCO will remove a property from the World Heritage List, as recently happened with Dresden in Germany.

38The preparation of a World Heritage Site management plan is a costly and specialist exercise (assessed by DCMS at £ 20,000 in 2008). There is no funding available from either UNESCO or DCMS, so the task and its costs fall to the local steering group. Most UK Sites have a locally based, locally funded coordinator who prepares and updates the plan.

7. Political and Other Tensions

39As a central government department, DCMS is subject to political oversight, and this can have a major impact upon the department’s work in the heritage sector. During the 1980s the Tory administration under Margaret Thatcher severed relations with UNESCO, and the relationship was only reinstated in 1997 when a Labour administration came to power. At a more local level, meanwhile, World Heritage Site steering groups are often chaired by local government councillors, and where central and local government are represented by different parties this can introduce a fundamental political rift. The situation becomes even more complex in those cities where there is also an elected mayor: in London there are four World Heritage Sites within the city, and the Mayor of London includes concern for their wellbeing in the London Plan. Thus there can be three different levels of political influence, and these are perhaps most strongly felt where there are issues of funding involved. Heritage of international standing may be perceived locally as irrelevant, and even regarded with hostility. The use of scarce local resources for its safeguarding may therefore be considered unimportant or even immoral compared with meeting the needs of local public services. Fortunately there are sources of funding external to local budgets which recognise such heritage. English Heritage and the other national heritage organisations are in a position to offer grant aid, while the Heritage Lottery Fund has proved very supportive of the UK World Heritage Sites, giving grants for a number of restoration projects.

40The position of World Heritage Site coordinator is also an important consideration. Within the twenty-eight UK Sites there are a variety of arrangements, depending on the nature of the Site in question. Blenheim Palace, for example, is privately owned and so its management is undertaken through its own organisation, while the management of Hadrian’s Wall has been taken to a sophisticated level by the establishment of a trust, funded by the fourteen Local Authorities and others which lie along its length. In many cases, however, the coordinator is based within the Site’s Local Authority, often as part of the town planning department. While this may provide some influence when dealing with planning applications, it also has the disadvantage of tying the role to a professional service, possibly to the detriment of a wider view.

8. Legislation and Administration

41The only power UNESCO can exercise over World Heritage Sites is to remove them from the World Heritage List; their protection depends on legislation adopted by the nation state. In the UK there is no system of protection for World Heritage Sites operated at the central government level. Instead, most measures dealing with the wider historic environment have effectively been delegated to the local level.

42The UK has an established and sophisticated town planning administration that controls development through the granting of planning permission. Historic buildings are protected by their inclusion on a ‘list’ of buildings of special architectural or historic merit. ‘Listed Building Consent’ must be obtained for changes that affect the fabric of such buildings. Some buildings and structures can also be scheduled as ‘ancient monuments’ which require additional consent for any changes. In the case of historic areas, meanwhile, Conservation Areas can be designated within which consent must be sought for any demolition work. Further protection is afforded on some individual issues such as the control of advertisements, and highways issues, which can be of particular importance, are also mainly a responsibility of the Local Authority.

43Recently there were moves in the UK to introduce the concept of a ‘historic asset’ throughout building and conservation legislation, in order to identify the key elements of a building or environment that might come under threat from, for example, a development proposal. However, the Bill that would have established this was abandoned in 2009, and instead the status quo remains. This means that the location of a development proposal within a World Heritage Site can be regarded as a ‘material consideration’ when a planning application is being decided. To assist in the protection of the UK’s World Heritage Sites, Local Development Frameworks (previously Local Plans) prepared by the Local Planning Authority can contain policies specifically directed at their protection and enhancement.

9. Some Conclusions

44‘Heritage’ as a concept has become mainstream since the Second World War, representing many values ranging from nostalgia to reminders of the darker side of human nature. It can be a romantic notion and a blueprint for regeneration. ‘Heritage’ has evolved over the last 40 years to cover the most prized works of human genius as well as the most beautiful natural places. It has also come to mean an appreciation of the lowly places that represent a familiar and cherished local scene. ‘Heritage’ is now seen as going beyond the tangible to include places of intangible heritage where significant living traditions survive.

45A hierarchy of assessments of heritage has evolved from the international through national to local levels. Each level has its own values, with some values being shared and some not. Systems to define and then protect those values vary in strength. International values have to be protected by the application of national systems of law. Thanks to the Town Planning Acts, national and local systems for the protection of heritage are well developed in the United Kingdom, although an all-encompassing piece of legislation to define heritage assets and rank them for protection has yet to make the statute books.

46At the top of the ‘heritage hierarchy’, World Heritage Sites are inscribed by UNESCO and respected by those nation states supporting the organisation. National legislation, however, makes scant reference to the concept of World Heritage and this causes confusion at the local level, where politicians who ‘know what they like’ may not grasp the significance of an international attribute.

47Generally speaking, the rise of information technology has enhanced appreciation of both special places and the values of the people who cherish them. The rise of ‘cultural tourism’ has also helped, and the blurring of the line between ‘holiday makers’ and ‘learners’ points the way to a better-shared future. Where once a summer holiday meant a beach in Spain, it may now mean a trip to Auschwitz or Hiroshima where international values have to be absorbed in order to achieve any kind of understanding.

48The recent destruction of World Heritage Sites in the Middle East and elsewhere as a result of political and religious conflict has emphasised the need to safeguard such international treasures through awareness, education and physical protection. An appreciation of local values through the consumption of local goods, including food, could be built upon to further this understanding of others’ values. In spite of the rise of religious extremism and the threats of climate change and global conflict, I remain optimistic that heritage values at all levels will endure and consolidate.


1 See

2 See

3 Department of the Environment Planning Circular 46/73.

4 Report of the World Heritage Global Strategy Natural and Cultural Heritage Expert Meeting, 25-29 March 1998, Amsterdam, p. 18,

5 The criteria are listed in full in the UNESCO Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention. For full details of the various versions of the guidelines cited in this section see


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