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Future UK approach to WHS

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Author Euloroo
#61 | Posted: 26 Mar 2011 01:17 
I´m aware it is too late but I still lament the fact that neither Oxford nor Cambridge are on the list. I think both merit a (shared) inscription and are of OUV.

The main issue is that these potential inscriptions are based around fully functioning businesses that think they have more than enough tourists and satisfactory heritage protection.

Anyways, as has been mentioned before, we British seem to have a perverse interest in pushing the boundaries of the world heritage convention! why go for something straightforward...

Author Solivagant
#62 | Posted: 22 Sep 2011 02:36 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Have come across this recent article by a heritage academic/consultant arguing that UK should not put forward any more cultural WHS nominations

Ms Young's CV is here

Most of the facts/opinions are likely to be well known to users of this site but it does bring them together

Whilst I personally wouldn't mind if UK ceased nominating sites and am unconvinced at the benefits it might gain from continuing to do so (The example given that Jarrow etc has benefited from all the effort put into its nomination doesn't seem to justify all that expenditure - though to be fair she isn't suggesting that this benefit is enough) I found the arguments used in favour of a unilateral moratorium unconvincing. Although there are certainly many further sites around the World which should be on the list (and many now getting on which are highly "dubious"!) I see no evidence that, by adopting a self denying ordinance, the UK would thereby allow or even assist such sites to gain inscription - even if some of the monies saved were to be reallocated to helping other countries. Although the World Heritage Centre may be stretched, the annual limit of 45 nominations doesn't seem to have resulted in any "ready" sites being missed out. Also I doubt if the "moral" example of UK non-nomination would lead to France/Spain and Italy etc doing the same (and how many sites should e.g China be "allowed" in this new world taking account of its area and population - possibly around one sixth of all inscriptions based on population (and India too of course!)??

Another issue the article fails to address is that of "different types" of Heritage - There have long been arguments that Natural sites do not really sit that comfortably within the World "Cultural and Natural" Heritage system. There are alternative UNESCO list systems for Intangible and Documentary heritage and there are several highly respected International lists for Natural Heritage (World Biosphere Reserves etc). Much is made of the imbalance in Cultural sites in Europe but a map of Natural sites would show Africa much better represented - as would those for intangible etc. Different countries/areas have different "strengths"/profiles for different types of heritage and the object shouldn't be to hide these by "giving prizes to all" in all categories!!

Author winterkjm
#63 | Posted: 22 Sep 2011 04:28 | Edited by: winterkjm 
Interesting article, would not the best approach for countries such as the UK, France, Spain, Italy, and Germany to develop smaller concise tentative lists? The focus should be to present sites that are not represented well from their earlier inscriptions, and more importantly on the world heritage list in general. Italy, France, and Spain have rather large tentative lists, totaling all together (95) new nominations. Unfortanately, many of these nominated sites are more of the same, though certainly not all.

An important factor in all this is the role ICOMOS and IUCN plays in inscribing new sites. It is important if the list wants to achieve greater balance and representation that the WHC follows these two organizations reccomendations to a greater extent. Furthermore, rejections of OUV could be more final, preventing sites like UK's Darwin nomination from attempting inscription multiple times.

While I have been heavily critical of some countries in Europe concerning their approach to world heritage, by no means does it feel neccessary to completely halt all activities to nominate and inscribe new sites.

When did the criteria for OUV in natural heritage become so much more difficult than cultural? How does the list have over 100 cathedrals, 15 Portuguese Forts, and almost 30 vineyards, but only 1 site with a relatively minor grove of Sequioa trees?

Author Solivagant
#64 | Posted: 22 Sep 2011 09:00 | Edited by: Solivagant 
A response (by an American!) to the above quoted article "Should the UK Be Nominating More World Heritage Sites?"

Author meltwaterfalls
#65 | Posted: 22 Sep 2011 11:47 | Edited by: meltwaterfalls 
DCMS Expert pannel review:
Having chosen not to guide nominations by using the thematic approach used in the last review, the UK has probably missed out on being able to make nominations which would fit with current UNESCO criteria, e.g.,
Early 20th century architecture and architects
The physical remains of the Cold War
The representation of Sport on the World Heritage List.

Now this will be a long time before these come to anything but I was just thinking which sites would fit into these categories that could perhaps be put forward?

Early 20th century architecture:
Works of Mackintosh and Lutyens immediately spring to mind.
In terms of specific buildings both Highpoint I & II and the De La Warr Pavillion were picked out as potential sites in this UNESCO review
I haven't got to DLWP yet, but look forward to it, though I can say that Highpoint really ais impressive, I had a tour a few years ago during the Open House weekend and they stood up well against the best modernist buildings I have visited from the World Heritage list.
If I was to put forward my own favourites I would probably also pick outDaily Express Building and the earlier but magnificent Watts chapel.

Cold war
Nothing especially springs to mind. Former RAF Upper Heyford was put forward but it doesn't seem there is really much there to warrant OUV.

I would like to have a think about this one. I put forward Munich's Olympic Park as part of our top 50 missing and I still think there is something in this. St Andrew's was passed over by the committee and I think justifiably so, nothing against golf (I've played a little myself) but it is not really the most inclusive of mass participation sports. I can't really think of any site that would better that Munich proposal though, but I will have a think.

Author Solivagant
#66 | Posted: 22 Sep 2011 13:50 | Edited by: Solivagant 
DCMS Expert panel review:
.......... current UNESCO criteria, e.g.,
Early 20th century architecture and architects
The physical remains of the Cold War
The representation of Sport on the World Heritage List.

We are all aware of the "Early 20th C Architecture" theme - though I would have thought it was a bit "crowded" now and about time it was killed off (after the FL Wright/Le Corbusier nominations have been seen through!!)
But where is there any documentation to support the assertion that the "Physical Remains of the Cold War" and "Representation of Sport" have become valid "themes" - does any one know? Bikini Atoll got inscribed last year but that hardly represents a "theme"

Author Solivagant
#67 | Posted: 25 May 2012 05:53 | Edited by: Solivagant 

On looking through some documents about the Giants Causeway I picked up an issue I wasn't aware of which might be of interest to others.

Although the site is officially only inscribed on Natural Criteria (7+ 8 - old Ni and Niii) UK originally (1985) nominated the site on both Natural and Cultural criteria - the latter being Criterion II. The justification related to Celtic traditions and to Mendolssohn, Ossian etc - an associative justification of the kind which has always been regarded as being somewhat weak. Nevertheless, ICOMOS commented "ICOMOS belives that the Giant's Causeway, though a natural site, is no less a part of mankind's cultural heritage. It meets criterion II of the guidelines for cultural properties, since it influenced considerably the development of the arts during the pre-Romantic and Romantic periods."
and recommended
"That the proposed property be included on the World Heritage List on the basis of criterion II."
However there was a "sting in the tail"! - "If the Committee wants the Giant's Causeway to be included as a cultural property, it would be only logical to require that a complementary proposal be made. This would add the Great Causeway and Fingal's Cave on Staffa Island, since these two properties are indissociable from the legend."

But NO mention was made of this recommendation in the Decision etc - it just seems to have sunk without trace! It would seem that UK had no interest once it had succeeded in the Natural inscription! Of course St Kilda was, originally, also only inscribed on Natural criteria but, for some reason the UK did progress Cultural criteria for that site.

However one further mention has been made in UNESCO documentation. In 2006 "Periodic Reporting" I found the following comment "In addition to its universal value as an exceptional
natural property, the Causeway Coast is of outstanding cultural value in that it contains a nautical archaeological site associated with an event of international historical significance.
The site of the sinking of one of only four Galleass of the Spanish Armada, the Girona, has yielded a magnificent collection of artifacts and jewellery which have provided significant insights into the Armada and 16th century European history."
. This is of course a completely different argument for a cultural inscription from that used in 1985. But the statement isn't followed up by any recommendation and I can find no reference to any work having been done - despite the interest which UNESCO has recently shown in Underwater Archaeology. Nor did the site figure in UK's recent revamp of its T List. This "cultural" aspect does however continue to appear in the site description on the WHC Web site.

AND - if you look at this "official" (actually it is nothing of the sort) web site
you will see the following
"The Giants Causeway was included on the World Heritage site list in November 1986. It is on the list as both a cultural and natural site, one of only 25 in the world to achieve this status. "
Incorrect of course - but interesting that some groups at least think that it could be!

Author Solivagant
#68 | Posted: 28 May 2012 14:23 | Edited by: Solivagant 
As identified elsewhere on this forum by Euloroo (see ge=1 ) UK today announced which of its T Listsites are to be progressed next - viz Forth Bridge followed by Gorham's Cave.

I hadn't fully appreciated that, following the announcement of UK's T List after a new public nomination and assessment process, another new process has been adopted to decide which of the T List sites should be progressed. Certain of the sites are invited to submit "Technical Evaluations" which are then assessed by a "UK Tentative List Expert Group" to identify whether the site is ready to do the work to develop a full proposal. The results of this assessment are then published!

This year the sites which put forward their Technical Evaluation were
Forth Bridge
Gorham's Cave
Chatham Dockyard (They must be very disappointed but the assessment identified significant weaknesses)
Lake District
Cresswell Crags (at their request to help them identify their weaknesses rather than for full consideration).

The Technical proposals and the assessments have been published on the DCMS web site (top right)

This seems an excellent approach which hopefully should prevent vast amounts of effort and money being spent on a no hoper site! ("The Group welcomed the process that has been put in place for requiring sites to submit Technical Evaluations before they go on to develop full nominations. This longer-term approach should allow sites to receive more support and advice before they set out on the nomination process and it should lead to stronger UK nominations") . Whether this will turn out to be the case in practice only time will tell. The entire recent Monkwearmouth and Jarrow nomination has been a farce -how could it get this far WITH significant ICOMOS UK input just to be rejected for not having OUV. It is not just UK whose processes are at fault but those of UNESCO and ICOMOS as well!!

Author Khuft
#69 | Posted: 29 May 2012 15:59 
The entire recent Monkwearmouth and Jarrow nomination has been a farce -how could it get this far WITH significant ICOMOS UK input just to be rejected for not having OUV. It is not just UK whose processes are at fault but those of UNESCO and ICOMOS as well!!

My comment to this may sound cynical, but I wonder whether / to what extent the UK authorities have actually listened and incorporated the feedback from ICOMOS / UNESCO. Reading the ICOMOS report on Wearmouth/Jarrow just felt like reading one about Darwin... The whole nomination seems to have been built upon the fame and aura of Bede - an approach that had failed with Darwin's Lab (and with Mt Vernon, for that matter - if I remember correctly a lot of the nomination was about G Washington).

Instead, the UK should in my opinion look at the "succesful" countries and try to learn from them - i.e. Spain, France, Iran, China. These countries manage to get sites inscribed which are quite similar to existing ones, just by unearthing some obscure OUV parameters. Witness the case of the Cevennes...

What approaches could the UK therefore try instead to get Wearmouth/Jarrow inscribed?
a) Include them in a vast series of "Early monasteries of the British Isles" - Wearmouth/Jarrow would not need to have a unique and outstanding OUV, they just would have to contribute a unique aspect to the overall OUV of such a site. Spain would probably find hundreds of suitable monasteries for such a nomination... :-) This may furthermore pre-empt Irish monastic sites to be subsequently nominated on an individual basis...
b) An alternative series would cover "The Anglo-Saxon conquest" and its aftermath; surely as one of the earliest monasteries in the UK, dating back to Saxon times, this site could be included in such a nomination. (BTW: I do sincerely believe that the UK could nominate sth related to the Anglo-Saxo period/ the early Middle Ages; the extent of the disappearance of Roman culture and replacement with Germanic culture in Britain was unique).
c) Find some proof that Wearmouth/Jarrow influenced other monasteries in UK / Northern Europe, or is significant for some other reason. ICOMOS actually leaves this door open: they state that the comparative analysis with regard to other monasteries of the same period does not convince them that Wearmouth/Jarrow's archaeological remains have been the most influential (meaning that: a more convincing comparative analysis could sway them); in addition they state that a comparative analysis with other Northern European monasteries of the 7th century would be needed to convince them. This all reminds me of the Bremen nomination some time ago - ICOMOS was only convinced about OUV when a (German!) scholar provided a treatise about the alledged importance of the Roland across Northern Europe. Maybe a scholar could be found that attests a similar importance to the architectural influence of Wearmouth/Jarrow?

Author winterkjm
#70 | Posted: 29 May 2012 17:14 
Some nominations are brought forward by national bodies that are certainly not the best candidate. Mt. Vernon was evaluated very early on in the process and judged as a weak candidate. Early recommendations were to not even include it as a tentative site until further research and re-defining the OUV of the nomination. Nevertheless, the nomination went through and was the USA's first nomination brought before the WHC in 15 years!

Author Euloroo
#71 | Posted: 30 May 2012 02:11 | Edited by: Euloroo 
the UK should in my opinion look at the "succesful" countries and try to learn from them

Yes indeed, the Spanish application model! But the British Government do so love to provoke the WHC - picked up in a previous thread - and maybe playing the game is more important than the winning ;o) Its something in the psyche.

Author meltwaterfalls
#72 | Posted: 30 May 2012 10:01 
I don't know if it is because I am British, but I almost prefer the approach of putting forward slightly more challenging sites, rather than finding some spurious reason why 1 National Park and 1 Historic centre/ building should be added each year.

In saying that the last rejected 2 really haven't been up to scratch, especially Wearmoth and Jarrow.

From looking at different European approaches I would be much happier following Sweden's example of occasionally proposing interesting alternatives rather than France or Spain's hunting out a sub species of conifer/ local style of grouting that hasn't yet been represented.

It won't help me get any more easy to reach sites, but it also won't continue to drastically skew the list towards mediocre European sites.

Author Solivagant
#73 | Posted: 30 May 2012 13:03 | Edited by: Solivagant 
My comment to this may sound cynical, but I wonder whether / to what extent the UK authorities have actually listened and incorporated the feedback from ICOMOS / UNESCO. Reading the ICOMOS report on Wearmouth/Jarrow just felt like reading one about Darwin... The whole nomination seems to have been built upon the fame and aura of Bede - an approach that had failed with Darwin's Lab (and with Mt Vernon, for that matter - if I remember correctly a lot of the nomination was about G Washington).

There certainly does appear to have been a degree of wilfulness about some of UK's past approach to stretching the inscription rules – as well as the recent rejections of Darwin and Jarrow we have had in the more distant past the Lake District rejected whilst blazing the path to make Cultural Landscapes acceptable for everyone else, and also SS Great Britain – was it "moveable" or not!!

But UK did really seem to try with Jarrow. The nomination was delayed whilst consultants were brought in to beef it up – at some cost in terms of money and effort no doubt. As I said, they had the benefit of advice and guidance from ICOMOS UK – in particular from Susan Denyer, who receives an acknowledgement in the Nomination file and who is a member of the UK's T List Expert Group. She has a "reputable history" within ICOMOS and was involved in the preparation of the "Filling the Gaps" report for instance, again receiving particular recognition. Would such advice really not have involved dealings with the ICOMOS "centre" itself? The advisors include European input – e.g a Professor (Dr Marcus Sanke) from Bamberg who appears to be an expert on Lorsch Monastery. Perhaps too many of them consisted of, possibly blinkered, academics from Durham and Leeds but this nomination wasn't produced by a load of "ignoramuses". How could they have got it so wrong – or indeed did they?

If we look at the areas of criticism by ICOMOS, we find that there is hardly anything about the site which it found acceptable – it wasn't just the over-emphasis on Bede which was a problem!!
a. Comparative Analysis. "ICOMOS considers that the comparative analysis does not justify consideration of this property for the World Heritage List." The main reason given is that Jarrow has had the "privilege" of having been professionally excavated, whilst other places (un-named!!) haven't, so "probably, comparable evidence of perhaps even earlier monastic complexes is present at other Northern and Central European sites". This seems an excessively hard requirement of proof to justify! If we take a place like Kuk for instance – I don't remember anyone saying that there might be "Better" agricultural sites as yet unexcavated somewhere in PNG!
b. Integrity "ICOMOS further notes that, following extensive changes to the settings of both the component properties, the historic access routes, both by land and sea, can no longer be understood. ICOMOS therefore considers that integrity has not been justified.". This issue must surely have been clear to everyone throughout the nomination process – but no one else thought that this fact invalidated the site's "Integrity"!
c. Authenticity. "ICOMOS considers that it is impossible to evaluate the authenticity of the below-ground archaeological remains; as such this can only be done on the basis of archaeological excavation records and the recorded state of conservation in the late 1970s". Well everyone has known that right from the start! Even the bit of "authenticity" which is conceded is only done so in the most GRUDGING way – "Despite the significant architectural changes, religious visitors and pilgrims seem able to experience the relationship of the architectural structures with Bede and perhaps for the limited context of religious visitors, authenticity in spirit and feeling could be justified" (My bolds)-
d. OUV Criteria ii, iii, iv and vi – Not a single one met. (ii) - Because other sites haven't been as well researched and because the "prototype" character of the site hasn't been demonstrated! (iii) - Again because other possible sites in Europe haven't been "subject to comparable archaeological investigation". (iv) - Because this aspect had already been covered under (ii) and it hadn't been demonstrated that it was any more significant in N Europe than e.g Lorsch. (vi) Because of the "Bede problem" by which associative but non-tangible links are not relevant. Thus, of the 4 "claimed" OUV criteria only one relied on Bede, but all 4 were rejected

The ICOMOS Technical Evaluator was a Dr Adriano Boschetti, a Swiss national who is a Lecturer in Mediaeval Archaeology at the University of Zurich and has been doing such evaluations for ICOMOS since 2008. His CV is here ( ) and seems primarily to relate to Swiss archaeology. I couldn't pass judgement on his professional objectivity and the suitability of his knowledge – and, in any case, one presumes that ICOMOS would operate adequate quality assurance procedures. But how can it be that a nomination from a developed country with full access to such advice and guidance as it needs from experts across the World and which is willing to throw money at the problem can get everything so very wrong!

I am not suggesting that Jarrow was a strong candidate – but I do wonder how even-handed and objective the ICOMOS evaluations are across the whole range of nominations and how much depends on the personal views of the Evaluator. I just do NOT believe that all sites are evaluated to the same open and objective criteria. We have already had on this Forum, examples of criticisms of other nominations both for having linked together too many sites and for not linking together enough! Sometimes it seems that a site can't do right for doing wrong. ICOMOS has pleaded with the WHC not to overturn "professional" judgements, but that does require that those judgements be fully justifiable. One wonders whether some evaluations reach their conclusions first for all sorts of "gut feeling" reasons (both justified and unjustified!) and then argue back to justify them rather than vv!

If ALL the ICOMOS criticisms are justified then there must be enormous questions about the competence of those UK academics and organisations who put together such a disastrous nomination. And again I would suggest that the UNESCO/ICOMOS process which allows a nomination produced by competent persons to progress "so far" and yet be "so wrong" is too opaque and subjective!

Author Assif
#74 | Posted: 30 May 2012 13:47 | Edited by: Assif 
I completely agree with Solivagant. Since Europe is overrepresented I wouldn´t mind ICOMOS being more critical towards European candidates than to others. However, even within Europe the discrepancies are enormous. Take the example of historical European towns which are no doubt over-represented. I find it very difficult to understand why Heidelberg (Germany) and Sibiu (Romania) have recently been declined for not demonstrating satisfactory UV or for not adding anything new to the list, but at the same time Regensburg (Germany), Mantua (Italy) and Albi (France) were admitted. The same is true for agricultural landscapes: why should Bergenzer Wald (Austria) and Trebon (Czech Rep) be out, whereas at the same time Stari Grad (Croatia), Causses and Cevennes (France) and Tramuntana (Spain) are in? It doesn't seem to make any sense.

Author winterkjm
#75 | Posted: 30 May 2012 16:39 
Perhaps ICOMOS recognized that they had to produce a VERY strongly worded "not inscribe" for the UK to not continue pursuing a nomination? If ICOMOS declines a nomination "gently" sometimes countries try indefinetly to try to get it inscribed. (example Darwin)

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