'Ill-advised developments' threaten UK's Unesco landmarks

Heritage chief issues warning after Liverpool's historic docklands were struck off list

Britain could see more of its historic landmarks struck off the Unesco world heritage list as “ill-advised developments” threaten their status.

Mechtild Rossler, the head of Unesco’s world heritage centre, issued the warning after Liverpool’s waterfront was removed from the list last week.

The historic docklands in the north-western English city were downgraded because of building developments which, according to Unesco, damaged the authenticity and integrity of the site.

Ms Rossler’s warning came on the day that an English court blocked plans for a road and tunnel project near the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, southern England.

She said the historic value of places such as Stonehenge, which was constructed between 5,000 and 4,000 years ago, should receive more attention when developers submit their building plans.

“The UK has all the policies in place, you have the institutional bodies … and management plans for most of the sites in place,” she told The Guardian.

“However, I have to say sometimes there is ill-advised development … that is a challenge we have everywhere and we have it also in the UK.”

Ms Rossler urged ministers to do everything to preserve the UK’s landmarks and prevent any more from being downgraded.

Britain has 33 sites on the Unesco list, including a slate mining landscape in Wales that was added this week.

Unesco said it offered an “important and remarkable example” of how the Industrial Revolution transformed the Welsh landscape.

Other British sites on the list include the Tower of London, the Roman-era Hadrian’s Wall and the Norman cathedral of Durham in northern England.

Before Friday’s court ruling, Stonehenge was regarded as vulnerable to being placed on Unesco’s “danger list” of landmarks under threat.

Liverpool was added to this list in 2012 but Unesco said developers had gone ahead regardless, with the projects that damaged the city’s heritage.

Ministers gave the go-ahead for a tunnel at Stonehenge last year, despite advice from planning officials that it would cause irreversible harm to the site.

But the plans were halted after a judge ruled the government had failed to fully consider the impact on the site.

He said UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had also failed to consider alternatives in accordance with the World Heritage Convention.

Updated: July 31st 2021, 2:43 PM