Stonehenge may be next UK site to lose world heritage status

The UK is eroding its global reputation for conserving its “unparalleled” historic assets, culture bodies have warned, with Stonehenge expected to be the next in line to lose its coveted World Heritage status after Liverpool.

The UN’s heritage body has told ministers that Wiltshire’s cherished stone circle will be placed on its “in danger” list – the precursor to it being stripped of world heritage status – if a £1.7bn road tunnel goes ahead as planned.

Heritage bodies said on Friday that Unesco would throw a “harsher spotlight” on the UK’s other 31 listed sites, which include the Palace of Westminster and Kew Gardens, after Liverpool became only the third place in nearly 50 years to be stripped of its world heritage status.

Sites expected to come under greater scrutiny from the UN agency include Stonehenge, Edinburgh’s new and old towns, the Tower of London and Cornwall’s historic mining area, all of which have attracted concerns over controversial developments.

Chris Blandford, president of World Heritage イギリス, complained that there was a “low awareness at the government level” of the importance of the country’s Unesco sites, which rank alongside international gems such as the Taj Mahal and pyramids of Giza. He said many were critically underfunded and that ministers had shown a “great reluctance to want to make the most of our World Heritage offer”.

彼は言った: “These are places of international significance. They are the best of the best of our cultural heritage. At a time when we’re out of [the European Union] and want to be taken seriously, internationally, then why not use these incredible assets of such significance to help us do that?」

Unesco chiefs criticised the UK government for failing to “fulfil its obligations” to protect Liverpool’s Victorian waterfront and blamed years of development for an “irreversible loss” to its historic value.

Unesco’s World Heritage Convention, of which the UK is a signatory, encourages governments to establish a national foundation to provide ring-fenced funding for its cultural assets but the UK has no such body.

代わりに, most World Heritage sites are run by cash-strapped local authorities and have seen their funding slashed since 2010 due to the abolishing of bodies like regional development agencies. Given the financial strain, many councils are under increasing pressure to approve contentious developments that adversely affect the historic value of their cultural assets.

A 2019 報告する by World Heritage UK, which represents the country’s 31 Unesco sites, said they received an average of only £5m each from central government between 2013 そして 2018. The annual government spend on the UK’s 27 mainland World Heritage sites is £19m, compared to £70m on the country’s 15 national parks, the report found.

Stonehenge is expected to be stripped of its World Heritage status if a two-mile tunnel is built on the site as planned. The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, gave the green light to the £1.7bn scheme in November despite warnings from Unesco that it would have on “adverse impact” on the area’s historic value. The high court is expected to decide within weeks whether the project can proceed following a judicial review by campaigners.

Unesco’s World Heritage committee has told ministers that Stonehenge will be placed on its “list of World Heritage in danger” – the precursor to being stripped of the title – if the tunnel goes ahead.

Barry Joyce, the former vice-chair of the International Council on Monuments and Sites UK, which advises Unesco’s World Heritage Committee, said it was “rather shocking” that Shapps had approved the Stonehenge tunnel despite serious concerns by planning inspectors.

彼は言った: “It is conceivable that other sites will be put on the Unesco at-risk register and if steps are not taken to mitigate or avoid the potential damage identified by Unesco then it is quite conceivable that other sites will be removed from the World Heritage list”.

Such a move would make Britain the first country to have more than one historic site struck off the World Heritage list, dealing an embarrassing blow to our global cultural standing.

Henrietta Billings, director of Save Britain’s Heritage, said Britain was now under the international spotlight over its “devolve and forget” approach to its cultural gems.

“The world is watching how we manage global heritage," 彼女は言いました. “Britain used to have a reputation for outstanding planning and conservation and the real concern is that we’re sleepwalking into a situation where we’re losing that.”

The UK’s plethora of historic monuments, which range from prehistoric sites like Stonehenge to medieval castles and Roman forts, contribute billions of pounds to the economy each year and draw in millions of visitors from around the world.

Yet despite the global appeal of Britain’s World Heritage sites, they receive little funding from central government.

Joe O’Donnell, director of the Victorian Society, said he was concerned that the government’s forthcoming planning bill will weaken the protections for heritage sites, potentially leaving more vulnerable to new developments. 彼が追加した: “Sadly, given the combative and dismissive reactions to the Unesco decision from politicians, improvements in protection do not seem likely any time soon.”

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