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World Heritage Site legislation to be tightened up

The government looks set to increase the legal protection of England and Wales' World Heritage Sites.

The DCMS - responding to a recent Unesco draft report on the country's World Heritage Sites - has alluded to increased protection being written into to the forthcoming Heritage White Paper.

Historically, World Heritage Site status has held an unusual position in the planning system, being considered important but having no legal planning protection.

But this appears to be set to change following the visit of the Unesco committee, which questioned the British government's attempts to protect the likes of the Tower of London and the Liverpool Waterfront.

DCMS mandarins have set out their new position in a new document.

While details remain extremely sketchy, the changes will almost certainly affect projects proposed for areas such as the east of the City of London.

The DCMS document says: 'While the UK planning system currently provides the set of procedures set out to protect World Heritage Sites, noted in previous Unesco World Heritage Centre discussions as some of the most comprehensive to be found anywhere in the World, the UK is not complacent,' the DCMS document says.

'A White Paper on heritage protection is to be published shortly with a view to new legislation applicable to England and Wales.

'This will set out measures to clarify and strengthen protection afforded to World Heritage Sites by legislative and other means in keeping with their status as places of international significance and the UK state party's commitment to the World Heritage Convention,' the document adds.

by Ed Dorrell

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