World Heritage Sites

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 28th June 2004.

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Photo of Jim Cousins Jim Cousins Labour, Newcastle upon Tyne Central 2:30 pm, 28th June 2004

What steps she is taking to improve the (a) protection and (b) accessibility of new finds on world heritage sites.

Photo of Ms Estelle Morris Ms Estelle Morris Minister of State (Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

The Department is keen to ensure accessibility to our cultural heritage, but that needs to be balanced with the needs of conservation and protection. That applies to all finds, irrespective of whether they are in world heritage sites. The Department is reviewing legislation on the protection of the historic environment.

Photo of Jim Cousins Jim Cousins Labour, Newcastle upon Tyne Central

I know that no one understands the linkage between heritage and regeneration more than my right hon. Friend. May I ask for her help in ensuring that a new length of Hadrian's Wall, which has been discovered on a building site in my constituency in an area next to some council flats, is made accessible? It has some unusual forward defensive features, indicating that Tyneside kept the Romans pretty busy right to the end. I am told that if property values in the area reflected London values it would be made accessible, but that because it is next to some council flats it cannot be. Will she consider this inequality and see whether something can be done?

Photo of Ms Estelle Morris Ms Estelle Morris Minister of State (Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

I am aware of the find of part of Hadrian's Wall on what I understand is the site of a redevelopment in my hon. Friend's constituency. I say two things. First, I know that, advised by English Heritage, the planning authority in his area is considering what should happen as far as further building of the hotel is concerned. I hesitate to intervene in that, because it is not the role of central Government to do so. However, may I reassure him that planning policy guidance note 16 will, I hope, offer that part of Hadrian's Wall the protection it deserves? This is a balancing act between ensuring that it is preserved and giving access if that is possible. I shall stall a little while the planning authority makes its mind up. As I say, I am reluctant to get involved at that local level.

Secondly, my hon. Friend will probably be aware that the world heritage site committee is considering the whole of Hadrian's Wall to see whether some amendments need to be made regarding the areas that are part of that world heritage site. In due course, the part of Hadrian's Wall that has just been discovered might be added to it. We shall see. If it happens, I know my hon. Friend will welcome it.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman Conservative, Chipping Barnet

Can the Minister confirm that of the 750 or so world heritage sites, 25 are in the United Kingdom? Can she further confirm that according to the new rules—if that is the right term—that are being created, a nation can make only one world heritage site nomination a year? Is not that rather a stupid way to go into that very important matter? Should not this be based on qualitative judgments rather than rationing each country to only one nomination a year?

Photo of Ms Estelle Morris Ms Estelle Morris Minister of State (Arts), Department for Culture, Media & Sport, Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts)

I confirm that there are indeed 25 sites in the UK, a great many of which have been determined as such in the last decade. As the hon. Gentleman says, it is the Government's responsibility to put forward one site for consideration. I cannot confirm that there has been a change of rule, but I promise to look it up. If he will accept that, I shall write to him to clarify the situation.