What is a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
“World Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage Sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.”
Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites World Heritage Site
In 1986, Stonehenge was designated by UNESCO, together with Avebury and Associated Sites such as Silbury and West Kennet Long Barrow known as the “Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites World Heritage Site”. The description of the World Heritage Site (WHS) includes a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) which explains why the WHS is considered to be of such importance to mankind.
The UK Government is signatory to the 1972 World Heritage Convention. Article 4 of the Convention states that:
“Each State Party to this Convention recognizes that the duty of ensuring the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage referred to in Articles 1 and 2 and situated on its territory, belongs primarily to that State. It will do all it can to this end, to the utmost of its own resources and, where appropriate, with any international assistance and co-operation, in particular, financial, artistic, scientific and technical, which it may be able to obtain.”
UNESCO requires State Parties to the Convention to produce management plans for their WHSs. Until 2015, Stonehenge and Avebury had separate management plans but a joint management plan for the whole WHS has been published. The new Management Plan includes a set of maps showing different aspects and characteristics of the WHS.
You can email UNESCO today to lend support to its advice that the Government should explore options for a widened A303 that would not cause further damage to Stonehenge World Heritage Site.
UNESCO & Stonehenge WHS Reports and Decisions
The 44th session of the World Heritage Committee, initially scheduled for 29 June/9 July 2020 was postponed due to the pandemic. It has been agreed that an extended session will be held in June/July 2021. Once the date has been determined documents will be published. At which time we will find out what view and action the WHC will wish to take concerning the Transport Secretary’s decision to proceed with a scheme that UNESCO has advised against. It could for instance place the entire Stonehenge and Avebury and Associated Sites World Heritage Site on the List of World Heritage Sites In Danger.
The report and draft decision were agreed at the 43rd Session of the World Heritage Committee at Baku, Azerbaijan, on 4 July and can be found on page 203 of Item 7B of the Provisional Agenda – Provisional Agenda – State of Conservation of Properties.
The Decision was adopted unchanged by the World Heritage Committee, which states that the Committee:
“Notes with concern that although the current scheme, which is now subject to the Development Consent Order (DCO) examination process, shows improvement compared with previous plans, it retains substantial exposed dual carriageway sections, particularly those at the western end of the property, which would impact adversely on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, especially its integrity, and therefore encourages the State Party to not proceed with the A303 route upgrade for the section Amesbury to Berwick Down in its current form”.
- The World Heritage Committee noted the concerns of the Mission report and urged the Government to explore ways of avoiding impact on the OUV of the WHS. Read WH Committee Decision 2018 in full.
- Stonehenge, UNESCO and the Spanish amendments: Our blog about our statement to the WH Committee and its decision-making.
- Mission report concluded that if the current length of the tunnel is pursued the damage inflicted by the dual carriageway cuttings would impact adversely on the integrity and Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the Stonehenge WHS. Report here.
- The UNESCO/ICOMOS Mission interviewed stakeholders including The Stonehenge Alliance in March 2018.
- Report of the World Heritage Committee and its decision in July in Krakow: Please scroll down to view the report and decision at the bottom of this page.
- Report to the joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Advisory mission to Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated sites (UK), 31 January – 3 February 2017 presented to the UK Government in June 2017.
- Our blog about the World Heritage Committee Meeting here.
- Report on the joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Advisory mission to Stonehenge, Avebury and Associted Sites, 27-30 October 2015. Report published May 2016.
- The Mission interviewed a number of stakeholders including The Stonehenge Alliance. Our report is here and BBC press report here.
- In response to our campaign UNESCO made the following statement on 19 May 2015: