Blog: Challenges & Hopes for World Heritage

Policy Blog - Heritage Debate 2022

Blog from Chris Blandford (President, World Heritage UK) on the future of heritage.

Shared in the lead-up to The Heritage Alliance’s Heritage Debate 2022: Heritage in 20 years.

World Heritage in the UK

Heritage in 20 Years: what will matter most?

During 2022 the UK has, in a variety of ways celebrated the 50th anniversary of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention (ratified by the UK in 1984) and has contributed to the ongoing debate on what the shape of World Heritage will be in 50 years time.

Internationally the UK is considered by many to have been a leader in the national and local planning and management of World Heritage. Building on this in the next 20 years the key priority for all those in the sector must be to ensure that the UK‘s collection of World Heritage Properties once inscribed will be well known, well protected and managed, well and fully supported with upskilled local teams, will be more self sustaining, and will contribute to social and economic benefits to all local stakeholders. The focus for World Heritage UK (WHUK) will continue to be the bridging of the gap between the local and detailed  management of Properties and the delivery of related policy and guidance at the national level. WHUK will also continue to and collaborate with and provide expert knowledge to the government agencies to assist  in  establishment of a much needed National World Heritage Strategy.

The protection of the UK’s 33 World Heritage Sites (WHS) over 35 years reflects a commitment to the principles set out in the 1972 Convention and the need to adapt this to changing national  planning, economic, and conservation priorities. From the early iconic monument WHSs, the UK list has evolved to include more extensive, diverse, and complex cultural landscapes and cityscapes. Improved approaches to management, partnership, and stakeholder involvement have in part been successfully achieved to support these.

However, significant challenges remain: the low awareness of World Heritage values, reduced public spending, and increased pressures for change and development in WHSs and their buffer zones. The WHSs as a whole have become a central part of the national cultural inheritance but a more coherent strategy and vision to promote their role as global assets and to ensure sustainable management in the future is now needed. The recent and comprehensive WHUK Review of UK World Heritage – Asset for the Future has now set out the blueprint for this.

– Chris Blandford, World Heritage UK