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 mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

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

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

c) Need for a protection of the immediate surrounding of the World Heritage property through an adequate and commonly agreed buffer zone;.

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2008

The State Party submitted a report on 31 January 2008. It also submitted a draft Statement of outstanding universal value. This will be examined by the World Heritage Committee under Item 8B of the Agenda (Document WHC-08/32.COM/8B).

a) Dynamic Visual Impact Study

The State Party has reported that this study is still on-going. It is part of a wider study being undertaken by English Heritage called “Seeing History in the View” which will set out a methodology for assessing the impact of development on views to and from World Heritage properties. No further details have been provided to the World Heritage Centre on this study and no timescale is given for completion. There is concern that the study being undertaken is generic rather than specific to the Westminster Palace. The World Heritage Committee had a specific request for a skyline study of the Westminster Palace, the Abbey and the Church, its setting, and views, in order to allow rapid assessment of the potential impact of proposed development.

An objective of the Management plan is to undertake this study.

b) Buffer Zone

The World Heritage Committee requested measures on protection of the immediate surroundings of Westminster Palace through an adequate and commonly agreed buffer zone. The management plan makes it clear that there is currently no buffer zone, as defined in the Operational Guidelines, which would help to sustain the special qualities of the setting of the property. Without appropriate consideration of the sensitivities of the property and its setting, development beyond the boundary on a large scale may pose risks to the outstanding universal value. The State Party’s report states that delineation of a buffer zone will follow the Visual Impact Study.

c) Management plan

In June 2007, the State Party had submitted the completed management plan for review by ICOMOS. This plan was produced by a Steering Group working with consultants.

The aim of the management plan is: “to complement but not supersede the relevant policies set by the site owners and managers, Westminster City Council and the Greater London Authority; to provide guidance for day to day management and long-term strategies; and to set a shared framework, within which the multiplicity of activities, requirements and opportunities can be balanced with the protection of the special qualities of the site”.

The issues, which now or in the future, might undermine the outstanding universal value of Westminster, have been set out with appropriate objectives for each. One management objective is to “seek the immediate integration of St Margaret Street, Abingdon Street, Old Palace Yard and Parliament Square, including Cannon Green within the boundary of the World Heritage Site in order to ensure their protection and to create a single unified site”, and “In the medium term, to consider an enlargement of the World Heritage site in order to include, and therefore protect, those buildings and spaces associated with the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey including St Margaret’s Church, which share the outstanding universal value. Such elements would include buildings spaces and archaeology of particular importance.”

The plan also includes the following objective: “To seek to ensure that the World Heritage Liaison Steering Group scrutinises proposals for landscape, transport, traffic management, street furnishing or significant infrastructure projects, within or close to the World Heritage site in order to encourage such proposals to take into account the significances and value of the World Heritage site, address and realise the objectives of the World Heritage site management plan’.

These aforementioned objectives do not compensate for the lack of a proper definition of zones around the World Heritage property. There are no defined statutory buffer zones for the site. The management plan refers to external policies relevant to the preservation of the property, but the mechanisms of future negotiations between stakeholders and possible conflict resolutions are not explored. It is not clear enough from the documents to what extent the management plan is subject to a formal agreement nor who will endorse the plan.

d) Update on legislation

The State Party provided information on the draft “Heritage Protection Bill”, previously mentioned as the “Heritage Protection White Paper”. This will be put before Parliament in 2007-2008. In advance of this, three new measures are also being considered regarding procedures for development proposals, strengthening the protection of World Heritage properties and guidance on the status and use of buffer zones.

Development proposals

The State Party provided the following information on development proposals affecting the property identified at the last World Heritage Committee in 2007:

- Beetham Tower: An application for a 170 metre tower (10 metres less than the plans presented in August 2007) was approved by Southwark Council in December 2007. The State Party indicates that this application might be ‘called-in’ and thus be subject to a Public Inquiry and they therefore consider that they cannot comment further.

- Doon Street: This development which includes a 144 metre residential tower was subject to a Public Inquiry from 10 to 20 February 2008, the outcome of which has not been communicated yet.

- Elizabeth House: The initial application for three blocks up to 117 metres high have now been slightly revised and will be considered by the Lambeth Planning Committee in April 2008.

The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS have also been alerted to plans for a major development scheme at Victoria station, which includes tall towers and could have an impact on the setting, the outstanding universal value and the integrity of the World Heritage property.

The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS consider that progress has been made with the development of the management plan but express concern that this has not made clear how conflicts between conservation and development in the setting of Westminster Palace might be addressed. There is also concern that no adequate buffer zone has been put in place. In addition, a specific skyline study of the property, its setting, and views has not been carried out, although a generic study of methodologies for assessing the impact of development on views for World Heritage properties is on-going. 

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


Decision Adopted: 32 COM 7B.113

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-08/32.COM/7B,

2. Recalling Decision 31 COM 7B.91, adopted at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007),

3. Notes the actions of the State Party in response to the World Heritage Committee's requests in developing a management plan;

4. Thanksthe State Party for aiming to develop general methodologies for assessing the impact of development on views from and to World Heritage properties which may become a basis for further discussion on criteria for visual impact assessments;

5. Also notes progress with implementing proposals associated with the "Heritage Protection White Paper" and its subsequent "Heritage Protection Bill";

6. Regrets that the following issues still need to be addressed:

a) buffer zone with adequate protection,

b) specific skyline study of the property, its setting and views, to allow rapid in-depth assessments of the impact of development proposals in the immediate vicinity of the property,

c) lack of clarity on the management system set out in the management plan for addressing conflicts between conservation and development, particularly in the setting of the property;

7. Takes note that the State Party has demonstrated its commitment to comply with the requests of the World Heritage Committee (Decision 31 COM 7B.91) to protect the property, its setting and related vistas.

8. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2009, a progress report on the above issues, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in 2009.

Decision Adopted: 32 COM 8B.72

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Documents WHC-08/32.COM/8B.Add and WHC-08/32.COM/INF.8B1.Add

2. Approves the minor modification to the boundaries of the Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret's Church, United Kingdom;

3. Recommends that a buffer zone with a view to protecting the visual integrity of the inscribed property in its environment be created, on completion of the impact studies and the coordination projects for building developments south of the Thames in London, in keeping with the expression of the Outstanding Universal Value of the Westminster site.

Decision Adopted: 32 COM 8B.96

The World Heritage Committee,

1.Having examined Documents WHC-08/32.COM/8B.Add and WHC-08/32.COM/INF.8B1.Add,

2. Adopts the following Statement of Significance for the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, and St Margaret's Church, United Kingdom:

Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey, and St Margaret's Church together encapsulate the history of one of the most ancient of parliamentary monarchies of present times and the growth of parliamentary and constitutional institutions.

In tangible form Westminster Abbey is a striking succession of the successive phases of English Gothic art and the inspiration of the work of Barry and Pugin on the Palace of Westminster.

The Palace of Westminster illustrates in colossal form the grandeur of constitutional monarchy and the principle of the bicameral parliamentary system, as envisaged in the 19th century, constructed by English architectural reference to show the national character of the monument.

The Palace is one of the most significant monuments of neo-Gothic architecture, as an outstanding, coherent and complete example of neo-Gothic style.

Westminster Hall is a key monument of the Perpendicular style and its admirable oak roof is one of the greatest achievements of medieval construction in wood.

Westminster is a place in which great historical events have taken place which have shaped the English and British nation.

The church of St Margaret, a charming perpendicular style construction, continues to be the parish church of the House of Commons and is an integral part of the complex.

Criterion (i): Westminster Abbey is a unique artistic construction representing a striking sequence of the successive phases of English Gothic art.

Criterion (ii): Other than its influence on English architecture during the Middle Ages, the Abbey has played another leading role by influencing the work of Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin in Westminster Palace, in the "Gothic Revival" of the 19th century.

Criterion (iv): The Abbey, the Palace, and St Margaret's illustrate in a concrete way the specificities of parliamentary monarchy over a period of time as long as nine centuries. Whether one looks at the royal tombs of the Chapterhouse, the remarkable vastness of Westminster Hall, of the House of Lords, or of the House of Commons, art is everywhere present and harmonious, making a veritable museum of the history of the United Kingdom.

3. Recommends that assessment for statements of authenticity and integrity / statements of protection and management should be postponed to the 33rd session of the World Heritage Committee (2009) awaiting adoption of a methodology and an agreed format for Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for inscribed properties.

Decision Adopted: 32 COM 8D

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-08/32.COM/8D,

2. Recalling Decisions 30 COM 11A.2 and 31 COM 11A.2, adopted at its 30th (Vilnius, 2006) and 31st (Christchurch, 2007) sessions respectively,

3. Recalls that, as decided at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007) by Decision 31 COM 11A.2, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies will not be able to examine proposals for minor or significant modifications to boundaries of World Heritage properties whenever the delimitation of such properties as inscribed is unclear;

4. Congratulates States Parties in the European Region and the States Parties of Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia on the excellent work accomplished in the clarification of the delimitation of their World Heritage properties and thanks them for their efforts to improve the credibility of the World Heritage List,

5. Takes note of the clarifications of property boundaries and sizes provided by the following States Parties in the European and Arab Regions in response to the Retrospective Inventory, as presented in the Annex of Document WHC-08/32.COM/8D:

6. Requests the European and Arab States Parties which have not yet answered the questions raised in 2005, 2006 and 2007 within the framework of the Retrospective Inventory to provide all requested clarifications and documentation as soon as possible and by 1 December 2008 at the latest.