1.         Tower of London (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) (C 488)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1988

Criteria  (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/488/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/488/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 Tower of London and Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret's Church World Heritage properties that could harm the setting, related vistas and integrity of the World Heritage properties;

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 protection of the immediate surrounding of the Tower of London through an adequate and commonly agreed buffer zone; and statutory protection of the iconic view from the South Bank of the River Thames towards and beyond the Tower.

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/488/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2008

The State Party submitted its report on 31 January 2008 and has provided comments on the actions undertaken and development proposals since the 31st session of the World Heritage Committee (Christchurch, 2007). 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 Tower of London. The World Heritage Committee made a specific request for a skyline study of the Tower, its setting, and views, in order to allow rapid assessment of the potential impact of proposed development.

b) Buffer Zone

The World Heritage Committee requested measures on protection of the immediate surrounding of the Tower through an adequate and commonly agreed buffer zone. The buffer zone is not mentioned in the State Party’s report and no further information was provided at the time of the preparation of this document.

c) Management plan

In July 2007 the State Party had submitted the completed management plan for review by ICOMOS.

Historic Royal Palaces were responsible for the preparation of the plan. Implementation and monitoring of the management plan are the responsibility of Historic Royal Palaces, in consultation with the Tower of London World Heritage property consultative Committee.

The ambition of the Plan is to “embrace the physical preservation of the Tower, protecting and enhancing the visual and environmental character of its local setting, providing a consideration of its wider setting and improving the understanding and enjoyment of the Tower as a cultural resource.” As well as providing an agreed framework for long-term decision-making on the conservation and improvement of the Tower, the Plan provides a mechanism to consider the setting of the Tower.

In assessing challenges for the property, in ICOMOS’ opinion, the management objectives face the challenges but do not always explicitly address the core of these issues.

The division of spatial planning responsibilities means that the setting of the Tower could be vulnerable to inconsistency in the definition and application of policy objectives between these authorities.

Issues like the status of the immediate surrounding (definition of possible buffer zone), additional reduction of statutory protective measures in London View Management Framework, the abandonment of the visual assessment tool elaborated by Historic Royal Palaces as a qualitative visual assessment methodology, are not explored.

The weak point in the management process is the definition of the zones around the World Heritage property in relation to the possible impact of local development on the outstanding universal value and integrity of the property. There is no defined statutory buffer zone. The management plan refers to external policies relevant to the preservation of the property, but the mechanisms for future negotiation between stakeholders and possible conflicts resolution are not explored. It is not clear enough to what extent the World Heritage management plan is the subject of a formal agreement and who endorses the plan.

d) Statutory Protection of iconic view from the South Bank

In its report, the State Party indicates that the London View Management framework was published in July 2007. This confirms statutory protection on one view to the Tower of London from a point on the south bank of the River, but in comparison to the draft presented to the mission, reduces the protected view angle from 20 to 15 degrees. This framework allows English Heritage and the Historic Royal Palaces to comment on proposals that might impact on this protected view.  

e) 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.

f) Development proposals

The State Party provided the following information on development proposals affecting the Tower which were mentioned at the time of the mission but has not provided information on other proposals which will affect the Tower (see below):

- Shard of Glass: Construction of this tall 66 story tower to the south of the Tower which was permitted in 2003 is likely to start in 2008 after demolition on the site which has already begun;

- 20 Fenchurch Street: This 39 storey building to the west of the Tower, to which the Historic Royal Palaces and English Heritage objected, was approved as a result of a public inquiry in July 2007;

- Potters Fields: This proposed development is for 8 elliptical towers up to 19 storeys high, between Tower Bridge and the Greater London Headquarters (from where the protected view begins on the South Bank) was objected to by English Heritage but given permission in February 2006 by the Secretary of State who acknowledged that there would be impact on the World Heritage property but considered that it would fit well into the thriving city of London.

The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS consider that progress has been made with the development of the management plan but express concern that it has not been made clear how conflicts between conservation and development in the setting of the Tower might be addressed, in the absence of further protection from a statutory buffer zone or a specific skyline study that could be used for rapid assessment of the impact of development proposals on the setting of the Tower. Up till now English Heritage and the heritage lobby have lost every inquiry into major projects that were supported by the Greater London Authority, and it is not clear how this will change in the future.

No measures have been put in place to change the current status of the setting of the Tower, apart from theone narrow, 15 degree, designated view from a point on the south bank of the river towards the Tower. This is having the effect of prompting further high-rise development immediately to each side of this view cone. For instance, to the north a group of buildings known as Trinity Square was submitted for planning last year and is being revised for re-submission. This includes glass towers that are outside the view cone but will be seen immediately to its left.

Another similar proposal is at Goodman’s Fields, Tower Hamlets, where residential towers are planned. These are being modified so they do not appear from the view cone ‘point’, but from elsewhere will be seen between turrets of the White Tower. These are being objected to by English Heritage but supported by the Greater London Authority who sees them as exciting.

The 307 metre Bishopsgate Tower is currently being built to the north-west of the Tower and other tall buildings are being planned around it, such as the Foster scheme in Hackney and three more including the Bishopsgate Goods Yard.

Further proposals are expected after 8 April 2008 when new ‘call-in’ arrangements will be in place that will allow the Mayor, after a pubic inquiry, to make a final decision on major proposals rather than a Minister.

The lack of protection for the setting of the Tower apart from one narrow view cone is leading to development proposals coming forward that will in effect enclose this one view. The integrity and setting of the Tower are in danger of being severely compromised, in the absence of any real support from the letter of the law.

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


Decision Adopted: 32 COM 7B.112

The World Heritage Committee,

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

2. Recalling Decisions 30 COM 7B.74 and 31 COM 7B.90, adopted at its 30th (Vilnius, 2006) and 31st (Christchurch, 2007) sessions respectively,

3. Notes the actions taken by the State Party in response to the World Heritage Committee's requests in developing a management plan, preparing guidance on methodology for assessing development in World Heritage views, and giving protection to the view of the Tower from the South Bank;

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

5. Regrets that no buffer zone with protection has been put in place and that no specific skyline study of the Tower, its setting and views, has been carried out, to allow rapid in-depth assessments of the impact of development proposals in the immediate vicinity of the World Heritage property,

6. Also regrets that there appears to be lack of clarity on the management system set out in the management plan for addressing conflicts between conservation and development, particularly in the setting;

7. Further regrets that large development projects with tall buildings continue to be approved while the issue of the property and its setting has not yet been resolved;

8. Takes note that the State Party has begun to comply with the requests of the World Heritage Committee (Decision 31 COM 7B.90) to protect the property, its setting and related vistas and defers consideration of the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger to its 33rd session in 2009;

9. 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.98

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 Tower of London, United Kingdom:

 The Tower of London, founded by William the Conqueror in 1066 has Outstanding Universal Value for the following cultural qualities: 

Its landmark siting, for both protection and control of the City of London: As the gateway to the capital, the Tower was in effect the gateway to the new Norman kingdom. Sited strategically at a bend in the River Thames, it has been a crucial demarcation point between the power of the developing City of London, and the power of the monarchy. It had the dual role of providing protection for the City through its defensive structure and the provision of a garrison, and of also controlling the citizens by the same means. The Tower literally 'towered' over its surroundings until the 19th century.

As a symbol of Norman power: The Tower of London was built as a demonstration of Norman power. The Tower represents more than any other structure the far-reaching significance of the mid 11th-century Norman Conquest of England, for the impact it had on fostering closer ties with Europe, on English language and culture and in creating one of the most powerful monarchies in Europe. The Tower has an iconic role as reflecting the last military conquest of England.

As an outstanding example of late 11th-century innovative Norman military architecture: As the most complete survival of an 11th-century fortress palace remaining in Europe, the White Tower, and its later 13th and 14th century additions, belong to a series of edifices which were at the cutting edge of military building technology internationally.  They represent the apogee of a type of sophisticated castle design, which originated in Normandy and spread through Norman lands to England and Wales.

As a model example of a Medieval fortress palace which evolved from the 11th to 16th centuries: The additions of Henry III and Edward I, and particularly the highly innovative development of the palace within the fortress, made the Tower into one of the most innovative and influential castle sites in Europe in the 13th and early 14th centuries, and much of their work survives. Palace buildings were added to the royal complex right up until the 16th century, although few now stand above ground. The survival of palace buildings at the Tower allows a rare glimpse into the life of a medieval monarch within their fortress walls. The Tower of London is a rare survival of a continuously developing ensemble of royal buildings, evolving from the 11th to the 16th centuries, and as such has great significance nationally and internationally.

For its association with State institutions: The continuous use of the Tower by successive monarchs fostered the development of several major State Institutions. These incorporated such fundamental roles as the nation's defence, its records, and its coinage. From the late 13th century, the Tower was a major repository for official documents, and precious goods owned by the Crown. The presence of the Crown Jewels, kept at the Tower since the 17th century, are a reminder of the fortress's role as a repository for the Royal Wardrobe.

As the setting for key historical events in European history: The Tower has been the setting for some of the most momentous events in European and British History. Its role as a stage upon which history is enacted is one of the key elements which have contributed towards the Tower's status as an iconic structure. Arguably the most important building of the Norman Conquest, the White Tower symbolised the might and longevity of the new order. The imprisonments in the Tower, of Edward V and his younger brother in the 15th century, and then in the 16th century of four English queens, three of them executed on Tower Green - Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Jane Grey - with only Elizabeth I escaping, shaped English history. The Tower also helped shape the Reformation in England, as both Catholic and Protestant prisoners (those that survived) recorded their experiences and helped define the Tower as a place of torture and execution.

Criterion (ii): A monument symbolic of royal power since the time of William the Conqueror, the Tower of London served as an outstanding model throughout the kingdom from the end of the 11th century. Like it, many keeps were built in stone: e.g. Colchester, Rochester, Hedingham, Norwich, or Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight.

Criterion (iv): The White Tower is the example par excellence of the royal Norman castle in the late 11th century. The ensemble of the Tower of London is a major reference for the history of medieval military architecture.

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.