World Heritage

World Heritage Convention

The World Heritage Convention was adopted by UNESCO in 1972, and ratified by the UK in 1984. It describes the kind of natural or cultural sites of ‘outstanding universal value’ (OUV) that can be considered for inscription on the World Heritage List.

UNESCO World Heritage Committee

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee meets once a year.  It is responsible for implementing the World Heritage Convention. Its role is to:

41st session of the World Heritage Committee, Krakow, Poland, 2-12th July 2017

40th session of the World Heritage Committee, Istanbul, Turkey, 10-20 July 2016 – due to disruption caused by civic unrest in Istanbul, this session was cut short. It will be resumed at UNESCO’s headquarters on 24-26 October 2016. Further documentation of the conclusion of the session will be available in due course.

39th session of the World Heritage Committee, Bonn, Germany. 28 June-8 July 2015

38th session of the World Heritage Committee, Qatar, 15-25 June 2014

37th session of the World Heritage Committee, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 16 – 27 June 2013

Documents for the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 16-27 June 2013

Decisions from the 36th session of World Heritage Committee, St Petersburg, June/July 2012

The Advisory Bodies – ICOMOS, IUCN and ICCROM

There are three advisory bodies named in the World Heritage Convention, who advise the World Heritage Committee. These are ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites), IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) and ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property). ICOMOS advises on cultural sites, IUCN on natural sites and ICCROM on education and training.

Statements of Outstanding Universal Value (SOUV)

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee requires all World Heritage Sites to have in place a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (SOUV) by 2012. Each Statement has:

  • a brief synthesis, describing the site and its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV)
  • justification for the criteria
  • a Statement of Integrity
  • a Statement of Authenticity
  • requirements for protection and management

The Statements are approved by the World Heritage Committee after an 18-month evaluation period.

DCMS page on Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for UK World Heritage Sites

UK World Heritage Sites

There are currently 33 World Heritage Sites in the UK. Each site has a World Heritage Site Co-ordinating Committee (or Steering Group), which is made up of representatives from a range of local and national bodies, and meets regularly to review the management of the site and its development.

On a six-yearly cycle, each country, including the UK, has to submit a Periodic Report to the World Heritage Committee on how the World Heritage Convention is being applied.  This includes reports on the state of conservation of all the World Heritage sites in its territory.  The 2nd Round of Periodic Reporting in Europe took place in 2013-2014.

Cultural Sites

Blaenavon Industrial Landscape (2000)
Blenheim Palace (1987)
Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s Church (1988)
Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd (1986)
City of Bath (1987)
Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape (2006)
Derwent Valley Mills (2001)
Durham Castle and Cathedral (1986)
Forth Bridge (2015)
Frontiers of the Roman Empire (1987)
Gorham’s Cave Complex, Gibraltar (2016)
Great Spa Towns of Europe (2021)
Heart of Neolithic Orkney (1999)
Historic Town of St George and Related Fortifications, Bermuda (2000)
Ironbridge Gorge (1986)
Jodrell Bank Observatory (2019)
Lake District (2017)
Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City (2004; delisted 2021)
Maritime Greenwich (1997)
New Lanark (2001)
Old and New Towns of Edinburgh (1995)
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal (2009)
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (2003)
Saltaire (2001)
Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales (2021)
Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites (1986)
Studley Royal Park, including the Ruins of Fountains Abbey (1986)
Tower of London (1988)
Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret’s Church (1987)

Natural Sites

Dorset and East Devon Coast (2001)
Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast (1986)
Gough and Inaccessible Islands (1995)
Henderson Island (1988)

Mixed Sites

St Kilda (1986)

UK Tentative List

Individual national governments are each responsible for nominating sites in their country from a Tentative List of future nominations. In the UK, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), nominates UK sites, on behalf of the government, from the UK’s Tentative List.

The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are responsible for choosing sites to forward to the DCMS.

After a nomination, there is an 18-month period of evaluation by one of UNESCO’s expert advisers.  ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) is responsible for cultural sites,  and IUCN (International Council for Conservation of Nature) for natural ones. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee meets each year to take a decision on nominated sites.  

Resource Manual on Preparing World Heritage Nominations

This UNESCO publication, prepared jointly with ICOMOS, IUCN and ICCROM, aims to help those preparing World Heritage site nominations.

ICOMOS-UK World Heritage Committee

The ICOMOS-UK World Heritage Committee is the focus of World Heritage activity within ICOMOS-UK.  It considers issues arising in the UK on World Heritage Sites, tentative lists, nominations, management plans and monitoring reports.  It also advises ICOMOS (international) and UNESCO, via the Secretary, on all matters relating to World Heritage in the UK.

Chair: Peter Marsden


Policy for the Implementation of the ICOMOS World Heritage mandate

This document covers conflicts of interest in relation to ICOMOS and individuals working on World Heritage Site nominations or projects relating to World Heritage Sites.

Guidance on Heritage Impact Assessments

ICOMOS has published Guidance for those commissioning Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs) for World Heritage Sites to help evaluate the impact of proposed development on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of properties

Other World Heritage Links