1.         Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) (N 369bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1986

Criteria  (vii)(viii)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/369/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/369/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

February 2013: IUCN advisory mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Development of a golf resort

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/369/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

In its Decision 36 COM 7C the World Heritage Committee had requested the State Party to halt the proposed development of a hotel and golf resort in the vicinity of the property until its potential impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) had been assessed. Prior to the Committee’s Decision, the World Heritage Centre, by letter dated 31 May 2012, had suggested to the State Party to invite an advisory mission in light of the scale of the proposed development. From 20 to 22 February 2013, an IUCN advisory mission visited the property, at the invitation of the State Party, to assess the overall state of conservation of the property and to provide technical advice on its conservation and heritage-led development.

a)  Overall state of conservation

The IUCN advisory mission found that the OUV of the property in terms of criterion (viii) has been maintained. It noted that the new visitor centre, which replaces a structure that was present at the property at the time of its inscription, and which had been the subject of previous reports to the Committee at its 27th (UNESCO, 2003), 29th (Durban, 2005) and 32nd (Quebec City, 2008) sessions, is well integrated in the surrounding landscape. It, however, also noted that no buffer zone has yet been defined despite the recommendations of the joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission of February 2003 that had suggested establishing a clearly defined buffer zone to provide for the best protection of the values and integrity of the property, given that it is also inscribed under criterion (vii) for its outstanding natural beauty. The IUCN advisory mission also recalled that the 2003 mission had pointed out that the landscape setting is crucial for the conservation of the natural beauty, and had therefore recommended to carefully review all zoning arrangements in order to preserve the landscape values of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) surrounding the property. It had also recommended that no developments, which could potentially threaten these values, should be allowed.

b)  Development projects

The IUCN advisory mission reviewed the state of conservation of the property. It considered that the planned hotel and golf resort development, the so-called Runkerry Development, does not comply with the principles of heritage-led development given its scale and location in the property’s immediate surroundings and its potential negative impact on the OUV and integrity of the property. The development project is located at 550 m outside the boundary of the 70 ha World Heritage property and stretches over an area of 148 ha, which lies within a nationally protected Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) that includes a high plateau, and an exposed sheep-grazed and rural landscape.

The advisory mission noted that, to date, specific assessment of impacts on OUV of the development has not been undertaken. Based on a review of information available, the mission considered that the proposed golf resort development would create an irreversible change of landscape character and would impact on important views within the setting of the property. The mission noted that the impact on the landscape includes incorporation of a dune landscape and rural landscape into a highly manicured environment. Moreover, the 18-hole golf course and the various buildings associated to the resort, including 75 lodges, a nearly ten metre high golf academy, and a 120 bedroom hotel with large amounts of glazing, would impact on important views in the landscape setting. 

The IUCN advisory mission recommended that given the significant impact on the landscape setting and important views, which sustain the property’s OUV, this development should not be permitted in its proposed scale and location.

c)  Planning policies related to protection and heritage-led development

IUCN recalled that national UK planning policies include provisions for the protection of World Heritage properties, in particular Planning Policy Statement No 6 (PPS6) of the Department of the Environment of Northern Ireland (DoENI), which clearly states that “development which would adversely affect [World Heritage properties] or the integrity of their setting will not be permitted unless there are exceptional circumstances”. It also noted draft Policy COU12 pertaining to the proposed Distinctive Landscape Setting of the property where the proposed development is located, which provides that “no development within the Distinctive Landscape Setting outside of settlement development limits will be approved except [...] exceptionally modest scale facilities, without landscape detriment, which are necessary to meet the direct needs of visitors to the [property]”.

Regarding the specific case of the proposed Runkerry golf resort development, IUCN considered that it does not appear to qualify as an “exceptionally modest scale facility” and that the development would appear to fall short of demonstrating a case for “exceptional circumstances” that would permit the development under PPS6.

IUCN noted that the written judgment of the Judicial Review of the approval of the development application refers to the February 2012 submission to the Secretary of State recommending approval of the proposal, which stated that the proposed development “would have a significant landscape and visual impact on the setting of the property”, but that this was regarded as being outweighed by economic and tourism considerations. IUCN further noted that the written judgment of the Judicial Review contains significant concerns of the approach that the responsible UK authorities have taken in relation to the assessment of impacts on OUV. The judgment notes the position of the responsible UK authorities in relation to consultation with and “the role of UNESCO to be surprising in a number of respects”, for instance that the State Party “considers that notification of a decision after it is made accords with paragraph 172 of the [Operational] Guidelines”, as “[...] the object of the exercise is to engage with the [World Heritage Committee] [...] before the decision is made.”

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the request of the Committee in Decision 36 COM 7C, and consider that the planning process of the Runkerry golf resort development has not allowed adequate consideration of impacts on the OUV of the property. They recall that the development project is located at 550 m outside the boundary of the property within a nationally protected AONB.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN further note that no buffer zone has yet been defined to provide for the protection of the values and integrity of the property, in particular its outstanding natural beauty, by preserving the landscape values of the AONB surrounding the property.

Given the scale and location of the proposed golf resort development project, it is recommended that it should not be permitted at its proposed scale and location in order to avoid adverse impact on the landscape setting and important views of the property, which are part of the property’s OUV. The Committee may therefore wish to reiterate its request to the State Party to halt the development until its impacts have been assessed in detail.

Noting the concerns raised by both the mission and the UK court regarding the current approach to consulting the World Heritage Committee, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN further recommend that the Committee strongly encourage the State Party to consider reinforcing its legal provisions and planning framework to allow the national authorities to ensure their responsibilities for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention at the national level, by establishing a consistent and clear priority for the protection of the OUV of UK World Heritage properties. 

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 7B.28

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7B.Add,

2.  Recalling Decision 36 COM 7C , adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012),

3.  Regrets that the State Party did not keep the Committee fully informed about the Runkerry golf resort development prior to any decisions being taken that are difficult to reverse, in line with paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines ;

4.  Reiterates its request to the State Party to halt the proposed golf resort development project until its potential impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property has been thoroughly assessed;

5.  Invites the State Party to consult the World Heritage Centre and IUCN on potential modifications and alternatives to the golf resort development project to avoid adverse impacts on the OUV of the property;

6.  Strongly encourages the State Party to consider strengthening its legal provisions and planning framework to allow the national authorities to ensure their responsibilities for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention at the national level regarding planned developments that could potentially impact on its World Heritage properties, and by ensuring that potential impacts on the OUV of any World Heritage property located on its territory be adequately assessed as part of the required Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for such developments, or through a specific Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA), and to also ensure that developments that adversely impact OUV are not permitted;

7.  Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014 , a report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above requests, as well as a copy of the EIA of the proposed Runkerry golf resort development, including a thorough assessment of its impacts on the OUV of the property.

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 8E

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Documents WHC-13/37.COM/8E and WHC-13/37.COM/8E.Add,

2.  Congratulates States Parties for the excellent work accomplished in the elaboration of retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for World Heritage properties in their territories;

3.  Adopts the retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value, as presented in the Annex of Document WHC-13/37.COM/8E, for the following World Heritage properties:

4.  Decides that retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for World Heritage properties in Danger will be reviewed by the Advisory Bodies in priority;

5.  Further decides that, considering the high number of retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value to be examined, the order in which they will be reviewed by the Advisory Bodies will follow the Second Cycle of Periodic Reporting, namely:

6.  Requests the World Heritage Centre to harmonise all sub-headings in the adopted Statements of Outstanding Universal Value where appropriate and when resources and staff time allow to carry out this work;

7.  Also requests the State Parties, Advisory Bodies and World Heritage Centre to ensure the use of gender-neutral language in the Statements proposed for adoption to the World Heritage Committee;

8.  Further requests the World Heritage Centre to keep the adopted Statements in line with subsequent decisions by the World Heritage Committee concerning name changes of World Heritage properties, and to reflect them throughout the text of the Statements, in consultation with States Parties and Advisory Bodies;

9.  Finally requests the States Parties to provide support to the World Heritage Centre for translation of the adopted Statements of Outstanding Universal Value into English or French respectively, and finally requests the Centre to upload these onto its web-pages.