1.         Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey including Saint Margaret’s Church (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) (C 426bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1987

Criteria  (i)(ii)(iv)

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/426/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/426/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

November 2006: joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission; December 2011: joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/426/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

Over the last years, the World Heritage Committee has repeatedly expressed concern about the actual or potential adverse impact of tall buildings on the setting of the property. Reactive monitoring missions to the property were carried out in 2006 and 2011 that focused on the need to strengthen the systems for protecting the immediate and wider setting of the property, which does not have a buffer zone.

On 29 October 2012 and 2 April 2013, the State Party provided updated information on the development projects in the vicinity of the World Heritage property that had been identified by the December 2011 joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission as having potential negative impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property. These projects are Nine Elms Regeneration Development, Vauxhall Island Site, Heygate Estate and, in particular, Elizabeth House.

In response to the Committee’s request for a definition of the setting of the property (Decision 36 COM 7B.92), the State Party stated that discussions are underway between English Heritage, the Mayor, relevant local planning authorities and with key stakeholders in view of developing an agreed understanding of how to define the immediate and wider setting of the property in relation to its OUV.

The State Party informed that all four above-mentioned development projects were objected to by English Heritage, the State Party’s statutory advisor. Notwithstanding these objections, three out of four projects have already been granted planning consents by the respective Local Authorities and, despite the advice of English Heritage, they have not been called-in by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Elizabeth House

The 2011 mission considered that tall buildings included in the redevelopment project of Elizabeth House at Waterloo Station, depending on the absolute heights, might have adverse impacts in the backdrop of the view that encompasses Westminster Palace and Big Ben. While the project area falls under the jurisdiction of the Borough of Lambeth, the key concern lies with the Borough of Westminster.

At the time of the 36th session of the Committee, a revised development project for Elizabeth House had been submitted proposing the construction of a tower structure with a reduced height of up to 29 storeys.

The State Party reported that English Heritage had raised strong objections to the proposal on the grounds that its impact, as result of its design and size, would cause a substantial and unacceptable degree of harm to the OUV, setting and views from the property. It further informed that English Heritage has maintained objections to the Elizabeth House proposals because the new building, from within the boundaries of the property, would be clearly visible across the gap between Westminster Palace and Portcullis House, appearing above County Hall on the South Bank. In some views, part of the development would appear to be visually attached to the north face of the Queen Elizabeth Tower (formerly known as St Stephen’s Tower, which houses Big Ben).

In its letter of 2 April 2013, the State Party reported that, because of the concerns of English Heritage, the proposal had been referred on 4 January 2013 to the Secretary of State for his consideration whether to call it in for decision at national level following a public inquiry. The Secretary of State decided not to call in the application but to leave it to the London Borough of Lambeth. He considered that the proposed development does not “involve a conflict with national policies, have significant effects beyond the immediate locality, give rise to substantial cross boundary or national controversy, or raise significant architectural or urban design issues”. Following this decision, consent can be granted in accordance with the previous intention of the Borough of Lambeth.

Other development projects in the vicinity of the property

Nine Elms Regeneration Development Market Towers: The State Party reported that this development proposal consists of the demolition of the existing buildings and structures, and the erection of two new towers of 58 storeys (up to 200 m above ground) and 43 storeys (up to 161 m above ground) as part of a mixed use development of residential units, including amenity and public open space. The project has been approved by the Local Authority, against the advice of English Heritage, and has not been called-in by the Secretary of State, therefore consent can be granted by the Borough Council.

Vauxhall Island:The State Party reported that this proposal concerns a mixed use development on “Vauxhall Island“ next to Vauxhall Bus Station, including two tall buildings of 41 storeys, approximately 140 m and 32 storeys, approximately 115 m. The project has been approved by the Local Authority, against advice of English Heritage, and has not been called-in by the Secretary of State; it can thus be approved by the Borough Council.

Heygate Estate:The State Party reported that this proposal for the redevelopment of the Heygate Estate and its surroundings was submitted to the London Borough of Southwark for consideration. It consists of a mixed use scheme, articulated in block form including nine tall buildings ranging in height from 55 m to 104 m. English Heritage stressed its concern about the potential cumulative impact of tall buildings on the property. The State Party informed that the applicants have amended the design of one of these tall buildings to English Heritage’s satisfaction but not the other, and that it has therefore written to Southwark Council objecting to the granting of outline planning permission for this proposal.

Planning Policy Framework

The State Party expressed its view that the planning systems in place in the United Kingdom provide robust processes based on law, policy guidance and development plans, for assessing the potential impact of proposals on heritage assets and dealing appropriately with them. In particular, it pointed to the revised London Views Management Framework (2010), the Mayor’s Supplementary Planning Guidance London’s World Heritage Sites – Guidance on Settings (March 2012), and policies for the protection of World Heritage properties in the Mayor’s Plan for London and in the local plans of the various boroughs. The State Party further underlined that the National Planning Policy Framework states that World Heritage properties should be treated as designations of the highest significance. It also admitted, however, that, on occasion, considerations other than those of heritage may take precedence, and English Heritage’s advice, based on heritage considerations, will be considered but may not always be accepted in order to come to a balanced conclusion on whether or not a development should be granted consent.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

While the joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission in 2011 had recognized progress in strengthening guidance to protect the setting from negative impacts on views to and from the property, it should be recalled that the mission had also considered the development project of Elizabeth House a crucial case for testing the effectiveness of the strengthened policy framework in relation to further planning applications.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that most of the development projects have already been approved or are close to approval, given that the Secretary of State has decided not to call-in the development projects of Elizabeth House, Nine Elms and Vauxhall Island for decision at national level, and that these approvals can be granted despite objections from English Heritage.

They are of the view that there do not seem to be defined settings or overall agreed constraints in place to ensure that new tall buildings do not impact on important views and other attributes of the property. They also point out that, due to the advanced stage in the planning process, any recommendations on the projects are more difficult to be taken into account by the responsible authorities.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies recommend that the World Heritage Committee request the State Party to halt the development projects Elizabeth House, Nine Elms and Vauxhall Island and to revise the projects in line with the concerns raised by English Heritage. They would also advise the Committee to request 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.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies would also recommend that the World Heritage Committee request the State Party, as a matter of urgency, to define the immediate and wider setting of the property in relation to its OUV and embed these in the policies of all the relevant planning authorities, as well as to define specific measures and ensure that adequate mechanisms are in place to protect the property and minimize its vulnerability to potential threats to its OUV.

They would further advise the Committee to consider placing the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2014, should the foreseen development projects be approved as currently planned.

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 7B.90

The World Heritage Committee,

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

2.  Recalling Decision 36 COM 7B.92 , adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012),

3.  Expresses its concern about the proposed developments at Elizabeth House, Nine Elms Regeneration Development and Vauxhall Island Site and their potential adverse impact on the setting and views of the property and urges the State Party to ensure that these proposals are not approved in their current form and that they be revised in line with the concerns raised by English Heritage;

4.  Requests the State Party to strengthen its policy and planning frameworks to ensure the adequate protection of the setting of the property by defining the immediate and wider setting and view cones of the property in relation to its Outstanding Universal Value and by identifying adequate mechanisms within the respective policies of all relevant planning authorities to ensure that new constructions do not impact on views and other attributes of the property;

5.  Also urges the State Party to refrain from approving any large-scale development projects in the vicinity of the property until an adequate protection of its immediate and wider setting is in place;

6.  Also requests   the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by  1 February 2014 , an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and on the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014 .

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 8B.7

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/8B,

2.  Approves the name change to Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret’s Church as proposed by the English authorities. The name of the property becomes Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey including Saint Margaret’s Church in English and Palais de Westminster et l'abbaye de Westminster incluant l'église Sainte-Marguerite in French.

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.