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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 2015*
  • Housing
  • Management systems/ management plan
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Construction proposals in the immediate vicinity of the property that could have an adverse impact on the setting, related vistas and integrity of the property
  • Lack of an in-depth visual impact study on possible impacts of development projects, as well as lack of an approved management plan
  • Need for protection of the immediate surroundings of the property through an adequate buffer zone
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2015
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2015**

November 2006: joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; December 2011: joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission.

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015

On 26 January 2015, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/426/documents/.

Following the Committee’s request, the State Party reported on the amendments to the National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG) made in the last year.  Other measures that the State Party has undertaken to improve the protection of the property include instruments such as:

  • Circular 07/2009, which provides additional support to the interpretation of the NPPG and includes specific reference to the management of World Heritage Sites;
  • The draft Good Practice Advice for the Historic Environment produced by English Heritage and the National Historic Environment Forum, with additional advice on the setting issues for a World Heritage Site;
  • City Management policies developed within the framework of the Westminster City Plan;
  • A tall building study, which will consider the potential impact of large scale development within Westminster; and
  • The draft Lambeth Local Plan, which identifies sites for development including Elizabeth House, Waterloo Station and the Shell Centre.

The State Party further reported that the Nine Elms Regeneration Development Market Towers, Vauxhall Cross and Vauxhall Island Site developments have been approved, and that it is not possible for the State Party to prevent the implementation of permissions that were granted. In addition, it confirmed that the first tower at Vauxhall has been completed. The State Party has noted English Heritage’s advice that the impact of that development on the setting of the World Heritage site on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property is harmful, mainly on views from Westminster Bridge looking west – views that were already affected since 1963 by the Millbank Tower. The State Party further reported that other construction phases for the Nine Elms Regeneration Development Market Towers were scheduled for early 2015..

The State Party finally recalled that, even if English Heritage had strong objections to the Elizabeth House development scheme – mainly that it will cause substantial and unacceptable harm to the OUV, setting and views from the World Heritage Site – Lambeth’s planning committee decided to grant planning permission to the project in December 2014. In March 2015 the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) confirmed that permission had been granted and the project will therefore be implemented.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2015

It is noted that the State Party has not taken any steps to intervene and review the development projects of Nine Elms Regeneration Development Market Towers, Vauxhall Cross and Vauxhall Island Site, which are in an advanced construction phase and, according to English Heritage’s advice, will harmfully impact on the OUV of the property. This impact shall be particularly noticeable in views from Westminster Bridge looking west where, together with the already existing Millbank Tower (118m tall), the new developments contribute to a jagged sense of enclosure to this important view.

It is also noted that permission has been granted for the Elizabeth House development scheme, which will have a substantial adverse impact on the important views to and from the World Heritage property.

Although the regulatory documents and frameworks seem to be reinforced, and although the authorities continue to develop a set of planning guidance documents which are supposed to improve procedures linked to the obligation arising from Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, there is little evidence to show that these are having an impact in protecting the property and its setting in relation to the dynamic urban development of the metropolitan area of London where the property is located.

At the Palace of Westminster, it is stated that major conservation works and repairs are being planned, in particular in relation to its interior services. It is recommended that the State Party submit details for these projects as soon as they are available based on the outcomes of a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA).

New planning applications included in the report will also need to be evaluated by the Advisory Bodies, such as the construction of an access tower to the Triforium in Westminster Abbey, where the creation of a new museum and exhibition space is foreseen for 2018.

The State Party did not report on the progress of the revision of the Management Plan for the property.

Considering the apparent lack of an urban planning framework for the property and its setting, with the result that every new development has to be dealt with on an individual basis, that developments are being approved against the advice of English Heritage, and that  the cumulative impact of recent and proposed development is beginning to impact adversely on important views to and from the property, its OUV and integrity, it is therefore recommended that the Committee request the State Party to invite a joint ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission by November 2015.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2015
39 COM 7B.87
Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey including Saint Margaret’s Church (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) (C 426bis)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decisions 37 COM 7B.90 and 38 COM 7B.36, adopted at its 37th (Phnom Penh, 2013) and 38th (Doha, 2014) 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 still appears to be an inadequate urban planning framework to manage development in the setting of the property, with the result that development that has been approved contrary to the advice of English Heritage is beginning to have a cumulative negative impact;
  4. Deeply regretsthat the State Party did not comply with the requests made in Decision 38 COM 7B.36 to ensure that the Nine Elms Regeneration Development Market Towers, Vauxhall Cross and Vauxhall Island Site projects be revised, and notes with concern that they are currently under construction, without the project having been reconsidered after concerns had been raised by English Heritage;
  5. Also notes with serious concern that no reconsideration has been made on the Elizabeth House development scheme concerning its design and size and requests the State Party to keep the World Heritage Centre informed on the development of the project;
  6. Further notes that the lack of an urban planning framework brings the need to appraise individual projects and also requests the State Party to ensure that, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, any larger-scale projects which may be proposed in the future in the immediate and wider setting of the World Heritage property be submitted to the World Heritage Centre as soon as possible, before any decision is taken;
  7. Also takes notes that major conservation works are planned for the Palace of Westminster and further requests the State Party to submit, to the World Heritage Centre for review, details as soon as these are available, based on the outcomes of a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) in conformity with ICOMOS Guidelines on HIAs for World Heritage cultural properties;
  8. Requests furthermore the State Party to finalize the review of the Management Plan for the property as soon as possible;
  9. Requests moreover the State Party to invite a joint ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission to evaluate the extent of impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property resulting from the implementation of the above-mentioned projects and other current planning applications, and to identify potential courses of action to address ways of strengthening the protection of the property, including through improved planning frameworks and management structures;
  10. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2016, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017.
Draft Decision: 39 COM 7B.87

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decisions 37 COM 7B.90 and 38 COM 7B.36, adopted at its 37th (Phnom Penh, 2013) and 38th (Doha, 2014) 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 still appears to be an inadequate urban planning framework to manage development in the setting of the property, with the result that development that has been approved contrary to the advice of English Heritage is beginning to have a cumulative negative impact;
  4. Deeply regretsthat the State Party did not comply with the requests made in Decision 38 COM 7B.36 to ensure that the Nine Elms Regeneration Development Market Towers, Vauxhall Cross and Vauxhall Island Site projects be revised, and notes with concern that they are currently under construction, without the project having been reconsidered after concerns had been raised by English Heritage;
  5. Also notes with serious concern that no reconsideration has been made on the Elizabeth House development scheme concerning its design and size and requests the State Party to keep the World Heritage Centre informed on the development of the project;
  6. Further notes that the lack of an urban planning framework brings the need to appraise individual projects and also requests the State Party to ensure that, in line with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, any larger-scale projects which may be proposed in the future in the immediate and wider setting of the World Heritage property be submitted to the World Heritage Centre as soon as possible, before any decision is taken;
  7. Also takes notes that major conservation works are planned for the Palace of Westminster and further requests the State Party to submit, to the World Heritage Centre for review, details as soon as these are available, based on the outcomes of a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) in conformity with ICOMOS Guidelines on HIAs for World Heritage cultural properties;
  8. Requests furthermore the State Party to finalize the review of the Management Plan for the property as soon as possible;
  9. Requests moreover the State Party to invite a joint ICOMOS / ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission to evaluate the extent of impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property resulting from the implementation of the above-mentioned projects and other current planning applications, and to identify potential courses of action to address ways of strengthening the protection of the property, including through improved planning frameworks and management structures;
  10. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2016, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 41st session in 2017.
Report year: 2015
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Date of Inscription: 1987
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iv)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2015) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 39COM (2015)
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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