Seven sites receive Government backing to gain Unesco World Heritage status

Seven sites have received Government backing to win Unesco World Heritage status, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has announced.

York city centre, Birkenhead Park and an Iron Age settlement in Scotland could be in the running to join the prestigious list.

Unesco’s World Heritage site system offers the opportunity for cultural and natural heritage sites to gain international recognition and promote themselves on a global stage.

World heritage site bid for Gracehill Moravian Church
Gracehill Moravian Church in Co Antrim (Stormont Department for Communities)

Five new sites from across the UK and overseas territories have been added, meaning they are now part of a seven-site list to be put forward by the Government.

Among the cultural sites on the list is York, which harbours a rich history left behind by its Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Norman inhabitants – with civic and religious buildings including its Minster.

Also backed by the Government is Birkenhead Park, which opened in 1847, and was a pioneering project to bring greenery to urban environments.

The site provided a blueprint for municipal planning that has influenced town and city parks across the world, including New York’s Central Park.

The Zenith of Iron Age Shetland, a collection of three ancient settlements dating back thousands of years, has also been placed on the Tentative List.

Birkenhead Park visitor centr
An aerial view of Birkenhead Park visitor centre, Birkenhead, Wirral (Peter Byrne/PA)

It joins the list in recognition of its vital importance to bird populations and wildlife as an area that sees huge transient bird populations pass through every year.

The Little Cayman Marine Parks and Protected Areas, situated in the UK overseas territory of the Cayman Islands, have also been put forward for their exceptional importance to marine biodiversity and their incredible natural beauty.

The five sites join two more that submitted their full nominations to Unesco earlier this year, and remain on the Government’s Tentative List.

They are The Flow Country, a large area of peatland across Caithness and Sutherland in the north of Scotland which plays a crucial role in supporting biodiversity, and the Gracehill Moravian Church Settlement in Northern Ireland.

If successful, the seven sites would join the 33 other World Heritage sites already based in the UK including Stonehenge and Hadrian’s Wall.

Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said: “Today we are confirming our support for some of the most enchanting heritage sites and breathtaking landscapes in the UK and its overseas territories as they bid for Unesco World Heritage Site status.

“All the locations being put forward would be worthy recipients of this accolade – and we will give them our full backing so they can benefit from the international recognition it can bring.”

Laura Davies, HM Ambassador to Unesco, said: “It is great that the UK is contributing to making World Heritage more representative.

“These five sites brilliantly reflect the diversity and beauty of the UK and its overseas territories’ natural and cultural heritage, and I look forward to working with them towards World Heritage listing.”

The DCMS says it will now work with local authorities and devolved administrations to develop their bids.

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