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Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey including Saint Margaret’s Church

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Factors affecting the property in 2007*
  • Housing
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports

At its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006), the Committee noted with great concern that proposed new developments around the Tower of London and Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret's Church World Heritage properties appeared not to respect their significance, settings, and related vistas. The London Plan policies to protect the World Heritage properties and their environment did not seem to be applied effectively, statutory protection for views to and from the properties could be diminished, and the management plans had not been finalised.

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2007
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2007**

Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Mission, November 2006

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2007

The State Party was requested to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission as soon as possible to assess the impact of current planning proposals in the spirit of the 2005 Vienna Memorandum on World Heritage and Contemporary Architecture, Managing the Historic Urban Landscape, and to review the possibility of inclusion of the property in the List of World Heritage in Danger, including benchmarks and timeframes for corrective action. The State Party was requested to provide the World Heritage Centre with an updated report by 1 February 2007 on the progress of its undertakings in this area, and on the state of conservation of the property, for examination by the Committee at its 31st session in 2007.

In its report, the Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Mission (which visited both the Tower of London and the Westminster World Heritage properties) commented that the overall state of conservation of both properties was good, with only minor issues affecting the property, such as structures recently erected for security reasons at Westminster. No major problems were identified inside the core zones of either World Heritage property.

The mission concluded that it is essential for the UK authorities to close the existing gap between UK national policy on World Heritage and its interpretation at the local level. There is a need to incorporate local development policies of Boroughs and Management Plans for the World Heritage properties into the GLA (Greater London Authority) strategic development plan. Absence of commitment to management plan proposals by relevant bodies despite their declarations to respect and integrate cultural heritage in development concepts needed to be overcome.

For the Westminster World Heritage property, the comprehensive skyline study currently in preparation should determine which views to and from the property were critical for maintaining the property’s integrity and for appreciating its setting to the fullest. Until this and further protective measures are in place, proposed new development could impact adversely on the values of the property.

The mission recommended the following:

a) Since developments were under consideration for several tall buildings, there is a need to confine development of tall buildings to the financial district of the City of London;

b) The proposed schemes of ‘The Three Sisters’ adjacent to Waterloo Station (a redevelopment of Elizabeth House in a cluster of three tall buildings of 140m), Beetham Tower in Southwark (226m), and Doon Street Tower in Lambeth (168m) in the surroundings of Westminster, including the South Bank, should be reviewed, so as to adjust them in order to ensure the visual integrity of the World Heritage property;

c) A report should be submitted on progress in the development of a dynamic visual impact study for the site in order to facilitate a thorough and rapid assessment of future planning applications;

d) The Management Plan for Westminster should be finalized by June 2007, in time for it to be available for the 31st session of the Committee. This should include protection of the immediate surroundings of the site guaranteed through the establishment of an adequate agreed buffer zone, which would allow better guidance as regards the height and volume of future planning applications and the protection of key views. This plan and the development plans for the Boroughs should be incorporated into the GLA Development Strategy.

The State Party submitted a detailed report to the World Heritage Centre in January 2007, responding to the Committee’s Decision of 2006. It reported that the following actions had been taken:

a) A revised guidance on tall buildings prepared by English Heritage and the Commission for Architecture and Built Heritage, statutory advisers to the Government on the historic environment, was out for public comment;

b) The further alterations to the London Plan would contain new references to strengthen the protection of World Heritage sites;

c) The Heritage Protection White Paper (consultation paper), entitled The UK Heritage Protection Review, was published in March. This proposed that:

(i) Statutory protection would be provided within the planning system for World Heritage properties in order to control development within properties and their settings.

(ii) Planning policy would be updated to strengthen World Heritage properties within the planning system.

(iii) Specific call-in notifications would be introduced in respect of significant developments affected World Heritage properties.

(iv) World Heritage properties would, where appropriate, be given buffer zones.

World Heritage properties would become equivalent in planning terms to other protected areas, such as Conservation Areas, National Parks, and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).

In respect of the Westminster World Heritage property, the mission made the following recommendations:

a) Since planning permissions were under consideration for several tall buildings, the new development of tall buildings should be limited to the financial district of the City of London;

b) The proposed schemes of “The Three Sisters” adjacent to Waterloo Railway Station (a redevelopment of Elizabeth House in a cluster of three tall buildings 140m), Beetham Tower in Southwark (226m), and Doon Street Tower in Lambeth (168m) in the surroundings of Westminster on the South Bank of the River Thames, should be reviewed and adjusted so as to ensure the visual integrity of the World Heritage property;

c) The State Party should prepare and present to the World Heritage Committee a dynamic visual impact study for the World Heritage property in order to facilitate thorough and rapid assessment of future planning applications;

d) The Management Plan for the Westminster World Heritage property should be completed by June 2007. It should include protection of the key views and immediate surroundings of the property through an adequate and commonly agreed buffer zone,  which would provide better guidance on height and volume in respect of future planning applications. The plan should further be incorporated into the Greater London Authority’s London Plan.

The mission concluded that the criteria for Danger listing would be met if the Management Plan, based on a dynamic visual impact study, and the protection of key views and immediate surroundings of the site through an adequate buffer zone has not been finalized by the time the World Heritage Committee meets for its 31st session.

The management plan and the protection of key views could be also considered the benchmarks for a potential removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger.

On 16 March 2007, the State Party responded to the mission report and assured the World Heritage Centre of the UK’s commitment to the protection of the World Heritage property. A substantive response to the issues raised in the mission report will be available in time for the 31st session of the World Heritage Committee. 

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2007
31 COM 7B.91
Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret’s Church (United Kingdom)

The World Heritage Committee,

1.        Having examined  Document WHC-07/31.COM/7B,

2.        Recalling Decision 30 COM 7B.74, adopted at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006),

3.        Expresses its appreciation for the actions taken by the State Party in response to the Committee’s earlier requests, and takes note that a London View Management Framework will come into effect on 13 July 2007, while recognizing that the visual impact study requested by the Committee has not yet been finalized;

4.        Encourages the State Party to adopt the policies set out in the Heritage Protection White Paper and urges the State Party to vigorously apply the concept of clustering of tall buildings so that they do not impact adversely on the Outstanding Universal Value of London World Heritage sites and by updating the site boundaries and buffer zones ;

5.        Requests the State Party to prepare and present to the World Heritage Committee a dynamic visual impact study for the World Heritage property in order to facilitate thorough and rapid assessment of future planning applications;

6.        Also urges the State Party to review and adjust three proposed development schemes on the South Bank of the River Thames so as to ensure the visual integrity of the World Heritage property;

7.        Acknowledges that the State Party has finalized the Management Plan for the Westminster World Heritage property;

8.        Requests, given the recent submission of the Management Plan and of the London View Management Framework, that the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS review these documents to assess their effectiveness in ensuring the proper protection of the site’s settings and vistas and report to the Committee at its 32nd session;

9.        Takes note that the State Party has demonstrated its commitment to comply with the requests of the Committee (Decision 30 COM 7B.74) to protect the World Heritage property and its setting and related vistas;

10.      Also requests the State Party to submit a progress report to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2008 for consideration by the World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session in 2008.

Draft Decision: 31 COM 7B.91

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-07/31.COM/7B,

2. Recalling Decision 30 COM 7B.74, adopted at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006),

3. Notes the actions taken by the State Party in response to the Committee’s earlier requests;

4. Urges the State Party to vigorously apply the policy of limiting the new development of tall buildings to the financial district of the City of London;

5. Also urges the State Party to review and adjust three proposed development schemes on the South Bank of the River Thames so as to ensure the visual integrity of the World Heritage property;

6. Requests the State Party to prepare and present to the World Heritage Committee a dynamic visual impact study for the World Heritage property in order to facilitate thorough and rapid assessment of future planning applications;

7. Further urges the State Party to finalise the Management Plan for the Westminster World Heritage property by June 2007 for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 31st session; and

 

8.  

Option 1: Considers that the State Party has not complied with the request expressed by the Committee in Decision 30 COM 7B.74, and that therefore the property is in danger in conformity with Operational Guidelines chapter IV.B and decides to inscribe the property in the List of World Heritage in Danger;

 

Option 2: Takes note that the State Party has demonstrated its commitment to comply with the requests of the Committee (Decision 30 COM 7B.74) to protect the World Heritage property, its setting and related vistas, and defers consideration of Danger listing to its 32nd session; 

 

9. Also requests the State Party to submit a progress report to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2008 for consideration by the World Heritage Committee atits32nd session in 2008.

Report year: 2007
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Date of Inscription: 1987
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iv)
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 31COM (2007)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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