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; February 2017: joint ICOMOS/ICCROM 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 2017

On 28 November 2016, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report. A joint ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission visited the property from 21 to 23 February 2017. Both reports are available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/426/documents

The State Party reported on:

The State Party confirmed its commitment to notifying the Committee of proposals that may affect the property and its wider setting, but has noted that the Committee’s timeline is incompatible with the United Kingdom statutory timeframe for planning decisions.  Once a local planning authority has made a planning decision, it is not possible for the State Party to challenge it, unless the Secretary of State has called it in.

The report of the Reactive Monitoring mission identifies general issues about the consent processes within the property and its setting; urban planning issues; the cumulative impacts of development projects, particularly tall buildings; management mechanisms including the role of Historic England; the conservation and renewal work at Westminster Palace and at Westminster Abbey.  The report also includes recommendations regarding the property and the potential benefits of creating links and consistent approaches between the four World Heritage properties in London, and in the United Kingdom more generally.

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

The State Party has not intervened with regard to major projects such as One Nine Elms Lane and Elizabeth House, as requested previously by the Committee.  The Reactive Monitoring mission confirmed that these and other proposed developments have the potential to create an adverse effect on important views to and from the property, thereby negatively impacting on OUV.

Although the Greater London Authority (GLA) and borough authorities continue to develop planning guidance documents to improve procedures linked to the protection of the attributes of OUV, these policies have not had a significant impact on the approval and construction of buildings “on the ground”.  Use of tools such dynamic 3D modelling should be utilized as much as possible to ensure that new proposals do not have a negative impact on OUV, by themselves, or also cumulatively with other proposals.  Developments are being approved against the advice of Heritage England, whose guidance needs to be given stronger weight in determining when to call in an application, so that the State Party may meet its obligations under the World Heritage Convention more effectively.

It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to develop consistency between its obligations, and those of the local government authorities, in addressing appropriate planning mechanisms integrating the protection of OUV. Furthermore, planning policies should be reconsidered to ensure that the notion of balancing protection of OUV and other benefits of development projects be more strongly weighted towards the requirement to protect OUV. There is a need to link the strategic city development vision with heritage-led regulatory planning documents to provide clear legal guidelines for consistent management of all World Heritage properties in London.

Regarding the Palace of Westminster, major restoration and renewal works are being planned for the building and its services.  As some of this work may include demolitions, additions, or changes to existing building fabric, the Committee should invite the State Party to submit details for these projects to the World Heritage Centre and Advisory Bodies for advice.

Regarding Westminster Abbey and the new museum space planned for the Triforium, work has already begun on this adaptive reuse project, including the construction of an access tower on the exterior of the abbey.  While judged not to have a negative impact on OUV, it would have been preferable for information on this major work to have been submitted to the World Heritage Centre during planning stages.  It is recommended that the Committee ask for full documentation of the work being carried out to be sent to the World Heritage Centre and may also wish to ask the State Party to ensure that any future major restoration or adaptive reuse projects be submitted as per Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines.    

It is also recommended that the Committee request the State Party to implement all 23 recommendations of the Reactive Monitoring mission report.

Decision Adopted: 41 COM 7B.55

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B.Add.2,
  2. Recalling Decision 38 COM 7B.36 and 39 COM 7B.87, adopted at its 38th (Doha, 2014) and 39th (Bonn, 2015) sessions respectively,
  3. Takes note of the State Party’s efforts to strengthen the policy and planning framework through guidance documents, but notes nevertheless that there is still an inadequate urban planning framework to manage development in the setting of the property, with the result that developments, which have been approved contrary to the advice of English Heritage, are causing cumulative negative impact on the OUV of the property;
  4. Strongly regrets that the State Party did not comply with the requests made in Decision 38 COM 7B.36 to ensure that the proposal of the Nine Elms Regeneration Development Market Towers, Vauxhall Cross and Vauxhall Island Site project be revised and reconsidered, following concerns raised by English Heritage (now Historic England), and notes with concern that these projects have been built, and therefore, requests that the advice of Historic England, be given a stronger weight in determining when to call in an application for development within the property or within its setting.
  5. Also notes with concern that once a local planning authority has made a planning decision, it is not possible to challenge it, unless the State Secretary calls it in, and also notes that the State Party considers the World Heritage Committee’s timeline to be incompatible with applicable statutory planning timeframes and requirements.
  6. Further notes that the lack of an urban planning framework creates a need to assess individual projects and requests the State Party to ensure that, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, any large-scale projects which may be proposed in the future in the immediate and wider setting of the property be submitted to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies, before any decision is taken or approval is issued;
  7. Recommends therefore, that planning polices be reconsidered to ensure that balancing between protection of OUV and the other benefits of development projects is more strongly weighted towards the requirement to protect OUV, in accordance with the obligations of the State Party under the World Heritage Convention, and underlines the need to link the strategic city development vision with heritage-led regulatory planning documents in order to provide clear legal guidelines to manage all World Heritage properties in London in a consistent manner.
  8. Also takes notes that major conservation works are planned as part of a Restoration and Renewal project for the Palace of Westminster and also requests the State Party to submit details, including Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs) prepared in conformity with the ICOMOS Guidelines on HIAs for World Heritage cultural properties, to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, as soon as these are available and before any decision is taken or approval is issued;
  9. Further requests the State Party to finalize the review of the Management Plan for the property as soon as possible and to submit an electronic and three printed copies to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  10. Taking note of the 23 recommendations of the 2017 Reactive Monitoring mission, to identify potential courses of action to address ways of strengthening protection, including planning frameworks and management structures and limit the impacts development projects and other current planning applications on the OUV of the property, and requests furthermore the State Party to expedite their implementation;
  11. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2018, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 43rd session in 2019.