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 https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/426/documents/

International Assistance

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

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


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

a) Construction proposals in the immediate vicinity of Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret's Church that could have an adverse impact on the setting, related vistas and integrity of the property;

b) Lack of an in-depth visual impact study on possible impacts of development projects, as well as lack of an approved management plan;

c) Need for protection of the immediate surroundings of the property through an adequate buffer zone.

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2012

On 22 March 2012, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property that responds to the requests made by the World Heritage Committee at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011). A reactive monitoring mission to the property was carried out from 5 to 8 December 2011. The mission report is available online at the following web address: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/426/documents/.

a) Protection of the visual integrity of the property and the immediate wider settings

The State Party’s report includes information about the general measures and policies that have been developed to protect the setting of London’s World Heritage properties. In particular, the revised London View Management Framework Supplementary Planning Guidance (LVMF SPG, 2012) identifies four assessment points of dynamic views including the provision of the protected silhouette of the Palace of Westminster. Additional Supplementary Planning Guidance on how to manage change in the setting of London’s World Heritage properties through decision-making and planning processes has also been published by the Mayor of London, so as to clarify the implementation of London Plan policy 7.10. The Guidance adopts English Heritage’s approach to setting and incorporates components of Heritage Impact Assessment processes. The report also states there is protection at the level of boroughs through local plans which include policies to protect the property. The report recognizes the importance of developing a Local Setting Study to provide specific guidance for the protection and enhancement of areas adjacent to and visible from the inscribed property.

The mission noted that the areas surrounding the property are still earmarked as “opportunity areas” or “areas for intensification” and “regeneration”, but that emphasis has been placed on identifying appropriate areas for high-rise location based on local character. It notes that guidance documents have been approved and published to address gaps highlighted by the 2006 reactive monitoring mission. It further noted that provisions in the Management Plan for the property have been included in the new London Plan’s Policy on World Heritage sites. The mission recommended preparing a Local Setting Study for the property, similar to what was developed for the Tower of London. It also noted the diverse planning and policy frameworks under preparation that will trim back the extensive and intricate maze of policies to a more manageable proportion.

b) Major developments in the area

The State Party indicates that major developments have been turned down since the 2006 reactive monitoring mission to the site. It notes that the planning system and policies contain provisions for evaluation of impacts in respect to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and to prevent development if considered to have an adverse impact. It acknowledges concern about the potential impacts of inappropriate development of Elizabeth House at Waterloo Station, but expects that the proposal will be evaluated against policies at the national, London and borough levels. The proposal, currently at pre-application stage with formal submission in May 2012, will be considered against respective development plan policies including the London Plan, Lambeth’s Local Development Framework and relevant supplementary planning guidance and documents. The State Party indicates that no other major restorations or new constructions are foreseen within the area.

The 2011 mission reported that the redevelopment of Elizabeth House might include a tall building which, depending on its absolute height, could become visible in the backdrop of the view that encompasses WestminsterPalace and the Big Ben. The proposed project falls under the jurisdiction of the Borough of Lambeth, but the key concern lies with the Borough of Westminster. The mission noted that if the LVMF SPG 2012 is approved, it would allow for better decision-making in terms of developments that would appear in the views and backdrops of Westminster. The mission pointed out the criticism of the Borough of Westminster regarding the LVMF in general as “not clear, not simple and too open for interpretation where more prescription would be needed” and the proposed Protected View which should have been a view cone so as to automatically put a limit on the height of possible developments in Lambeth. Finally, it considered that the project will test the robustness of the planning system in terms of the protection afforded to the setting of the property. If a planning proposal for a tall building is given planning consent in spite of an ascertained negative impact, the “inevitable conclusions will have to be drawn concerning the effectiveness of the management system currently in place”.

c) State of conservation

The mission noted that the property is in a good state of conservation regarding the fabric within the boundaries. Security measures which affected negatively on the aesthetics of the surrounding urban area are currently being replaced with well-designed “street furniture” of bomb-proof quality. Plans are under consideration to divert part of the traffic away from Parliament Square to turn it into a pedestrian area, which will contribute to the visual appearance of the property.

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

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the existence of guidance and planning documents that set out how to protect aspects of the setting of the property. However, there are still challenges in adequately defining the immediate and wider setting in relation to its Outstanding Universal Value, including protecting silhouettes and backgrounds to key views and vistas. In addition, they note the importance of getting neighbouring boroughs to adopt policies that protect the property, which is related to the formalization of a structured link for decision-making that puts in place appropriate constraints for the setting. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies further note that if protection is to rely on setting studies, the defined settings would need to be approved and incorporated into the local plans of the boroughs adjacent to and in the immediate vicinity of the property. Finally, they note that the question of providing statutory protection might warrant further review to ensure that the property is not vulnerable to potential threats to its Outstanding Universal Value and to the conditions of authenticity and integrity.

Decision Adopted: 36 COM 7B.92

The World Heritage Committee,

1.   Having examined Document WHC-12/36.COM/7B.Add,

2.   Recalling Decision 35 COM 7B.115, adopted at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011),

3.   Acknowledges the information provided by the State Party on the protection of the visual integrity of the property and in respect to major developments in the area;

4.   Notes the results of the December 2011 joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to the property and encourages the State Party to implement its recommendations, in particular:

a)  Further define the immediate and wider setting of the property in relation to its Outstanding Universal Value and embed these in the policies of all the relevant planning authorities,

b)  Define specific measures, based on the definition of the immediate and the wider setting of the property, and ensure that adequate mechanisms are in place to  protect the property and minimize its vulnerability to potential threats to its Outstanding Universal Value;

5.   Requests the State Party, in accordance to Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, to submit to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies, the proposed development project at Elizabeth House and any other major proposals, before any irreversible commitment is made;

6.   Also 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 on the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014.