I’ve been reading a bit about some heritage sites that have benefited from their inclusion on the UNESCO list. One common theme is that a natural site is at risk from proposed developments that would encroach on it. However, due to the site’s heritage status, and intervention from international bodies, the proposals are shelved.

One of these sites is the Dorset Coast in England. There were plans to build an offshore wind farm close to the site, but the government chose to reject planning permission, in part due to presumed negative effects the farm would have had on the area, and on the Outstanding Universal Value that led to its inclusion on the UNESCO list. This obviously shows that World Heritage status can be an effective means of preserving natural heritage. However, it also raises the question of balancing development needs with heritage preservation. In this case, there could be an argument that growth in the use of renewable energy is extremely important, and it would therefore be justified to encroach on the heritage site.

In the main, though, I think the protected status of heritage sites is necessary and useful.

It’s a shame that so many World Heritage sites are in danger, with UNESCO currently listing 55 properties that are under threat. A substantial number of these are natural sites, but interestingly the majority are cultural.

Many of these are well preserved and historic towns and buildings, and trying to protect them with a simple government or international edict seems more difficult. Often tourism growth and development at these properties is endangering their heritage value, a problem that we’ve read and talked about in class before, and sadly this economic growth seems too rampant to be stopped or even reduced, to the detriment of the heritage.

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There’s another UK example that’s relevant here, which is the site ‘Liverpool- Maritime Mercantile City’. It’s the only UK site on the ‘in danger’ list, and is included because, in 2012, the City Council gave planning permission for a housing and construction development throughout a large area of the site. The then government was given the option to launch an inquiry into the development and its effects, but chose not to, meaning that the project will go ahead as planned, with unknown consequences for Liverpool’s World Heritage Site.