2018's World Heritage UK conference19 October 2018
The English Lake District is part of a UK family of 31 World Heritage Sites, from St Kilda in the north, to the Cornish Mines in the south. This family even extends beyond the UK’s shores to a handful of overseas territories, in the Atlantic and all the way to the Pacific.
This group comes together once a year for the annual World Heritage:UK conference. Here they share successes, challenges and experiences. This year’s topics ranged from Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s (DCMS) support for WHSs, underpasses at Stonehenge, Bermuda flying their flag, how the Tower of London is a heritage oasis within a sea of corporate expansions (mainly upward) in the City and beyond, and much more.
The Lake District’s WHS Coordinator Mairi Lock gave her first speech, on how the Lake District doesn’t have a buffer zone and how that’s working out for us. What’s a buffer zone you may ask? A buffer zone is an area surrounding a WHS which has complementary legal and/or customary restrictions placed on its use and development, thus giving an added layer of protection for the WHS. But here we don’t have this protective layer. We don’t actually need it. And we don’t have to have one.
Why’s that? Firstly it’s to do with scale. We’re about 2,292 square kilometres. Being that big will itself help prevent any agreed development have an adverse impact on the attributes of our Outstanding Universal Value, or those reasons we’re a WHS.
Secondly, as the WHS is a National Park it has the highest level of landscape protection within the UK planning system already, as recognised in national and local planning guidance.
And thirdly all our neighbouring planning authorities (Copeland BC, Allerdale BC, Eden DC, South Lakeland DC and Cumbria CC) are members of the Lake District National Park Partnership (LDNPP) and are committed to appropriate management of the WHS and have signed up to protect it. Their own planning policies acknowledge the special qualities of the National Park which include the WHS’ OUV. They therefore will protect the OUV as they would the NP’s special qualities.
The potentially biggest challenge to our WHS comes not from a lack of a buffer zone but from Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects where the all planning authorities are not the determining authority. The decisions process rests with the Planning Inspectorate and the Secretary of State. There needs to be stronger Government recognition (beyond DCMS), for the protection of World Heritage Sites and the members of LDNPP will continue to lobby all departments to grow their understanding and support.