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Westminster’s World Heritage status under threat

Three sites in the UK, including Westminster, face losing their World Heritage status

It is expected that UNESCO’s World Heritage committee will recommend three UK sites, including Westminster, are put on their heritage in danger list, when they meet in Cambodia next week. Being placed on the list signals the first step in losing a site’s World Heritage status.

Alongside Westminster, the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and Hayle Harbour in Cornwall are also facing inclusion on the ‘endangered’ list.

Westminster’s World Heritage status has come under threat from office and residential tower developments in Waterloo and Vauxhall.

The specialist agency of the United Nations is to discuss the potentially harmful impact of proposed developments including Nine Elms regeneration, the Vauxhall Island site, the Heygate Estate and, in particular, David Chipperfield’s Elizabeth House.

Chipperfield’s project next to Waterloo station, which was granted planning in November, has raised concern due to its potential impact on the view of Westminster Palace and Big Ben.

Allies and Morrison’s previous redevelopment vision for the site was thrown out by former Secretary of State John Denham following claims it could cause ‘significant harm’ to the Westminster World Heritage site.

Lib Peck, leader of Lambeth council responded: ‘Like every local planning authority Lambeth Council is obliged to determine planning applications on their merits against established planning policy. The impact of development on the setting of the World Heritage Sites is something that Lambeth takes seriously; it is a subjective matter and differences of opinion between interested parties do exist. 

‘The Elizabeth House decision and the emerging development proposals at Vauxhall have all been approved against a robust planning policy context and with the support of the Mayor of London who holds strategic planning responsibilities for the city. 

Peck added: ‘There are established mechanisms for the scrutiny of contentious planning decisions and, as we saw with Elizabeth House, the Secretary of State has the power to ‘call in’ such decisions – in that case he decided not to and thus supported Lambeth’s decision to grant permission. 

‘This UK government scrutiny role is essential in highly sensitive cases such as those affecting World heritage Sites.  The current system is robust and further strengthening of policy or legislation is, in Lambeth’s view, unnecessary’

Liverpool’s waterfront has already been placed on the list and looks set to lose its World Heritage status after planning permission was granted for Liverpool Waters.

The committee said: ‘If Liverpool Waters development is implemented as currently planned, it would irreversibly damage the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value and the conditions of integrity that warranted inscription, and could lead to the potential deletion of the property from the World Heritage List’.

The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland could also be placed on the list, not for their recent new Heneghan Peng-designed visitor centre, but because of plans for a golf course nearby.

While, Hayle Harbour in Cornwall is threatened by the development of a new supermarket.

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