World Heritage of the UK Unites

Delegates at the World Heritage UK Conference at Victoria Hall in Saltaire

Representatives from the UK’s 29 World Heritage Sites convened at the 19th century industrial village of Saltaire last week for the inaugural conference of the new networking and advocacy group, World Heritage UK.

The conference’s theme was World Heritage Tourism: Unlocking potential where the UK’s sites shared their experiences of communicating the global significance of the designated area at a local level and in balancing the needs of residents, tourists and businesses within their UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sam Rose, Chair of Trustees for World Heritage UK said:

“It was a great event – excellent speakers, extremely engaged delegates and a palpable feeling of optimism in the air throughout.  The board is delighted that the inaugural conference has been such a success, and we hope that this will be that start of a more prominent voice for World Heritage Sites in the UK.  Our thanks to those who attended, and to Saltaire and Bradford City Council for being such welcoming hosts.”

Case studies from the four corners of the UK – Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape, Dorset and East Devon (Jurassic) Coast, Giant’s Causeway, and the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh – highlighted the great work that the UK’s World Heritage Site coordinating teams are doing in developing their UNESCO site into a world class visitor destination, instilling a sense of collective responsibility, among residents and local businesses, for the protection and promotion of the site.

Tracey Crouch MP, Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage opened the conference and said in a pre-recorded key note speech, “the government is passionate about setting the international gold standard in protection and promotion of World Heritage”. Ms. Crouch recognised that the UK’s diverse network of UNESCO World Heritage Sites can help to encourage domestic and international tourists to venture outside of London – a core aim of the UK’s new tourism strategy, launched by Prime Minister David Cameron at the Cornwall and West Devon Mining World Heritage Site earlier this year.

UNESCO’s Peter Debrine and VisitEngland’s James Berresford provided delegates with master classes in destination management with the former also offering an overview of the Organisation’s World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism project which provides an international framework for safeguarding heritage and achieving sustainable tourism and economic development in World Heritage Sites.

Professor Mike Robinson, Director of the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage reminded delegates during his presentation, of the importance of thinking globally as well as locally, recommending that the UK’s sites look to form thematic links with their counterparts overseas.

The UKNC’s Culture Director, Helen Maclagan spoke of the value in the UK sites making links with the wider UNESCO family in the UK and praised WH:UK for providing a platform for networking and information sharing among the UK’s sites.

World Heritage UK is a newly established charity, led by the UK’s World Heritage Sites, for current and prospective sites in the UK and its Overseas Territories. It seeks to facilitate information sharing and networking between the UK’s Sites, and their counterparts overseas. For more information on WH:UK, sign up to their blog via their website.

World Heritage UK has evolved out of LAWHF, the Local Authority World Heritage Forum.