What is a World Heritage Property?
The World Heritage Convention defines World Heritage Properties as places or buildings of outstanding universal value recognised as requiring the cooperation of the international community. Darwin’s Landscape Laboratory is being submitted to UNESCO as a cultural World Heritage Property, which is defined as a 'monument, group of buildings or site of historical, aesthetic, archaeological, scientific, ethnological or anthropological value'.
Why should 'Darwin's Landscape Laboratory' be a World Heritage Property?
Darwin's home and surrounding landscape around Downe in the London Borough of Bromley have unique value because his theory of evolution by natural selection is fundamental to the scientific understanding of the living world and humanity's place within it. His work at Downe contributes greatly to much of modern day science and can be used to encourage sustainable management of the world's resources. Inscription as a World Heritage Property would provide recognition that Bromley's heritage has inspired global understanding of the natural world and the methodology of science.
What benefits will inscription bring? Inscription will ...
* provide an opportunity to undertake visitor management in a sustainable way and improve.
* access to and around the area allowing sustainable transport options for visitors.
* attract funding and support for conservation, enhancement and promotion.
* promote Darwin's work at Downe to both local and international audiences. Links have been established between schools in Bromley and in the Galapagos Islands. An educational programme has been established setting up projects involving Bromley's children and adults. The aim is to make Darwin's work at Downe accessible, leading to an improved understanding of the global importance of Darwin’s insights.
* help safeguard the area from development pressures associated with its proximity to London.
How will the visitors be managed?
Down House has been a museum receiving visitors who wish to see Darwin's work since 1929, whilst there are other visitors to the area, independent of the Darwin attractions. Inscription of the Property provides an opportunity for an assessment of visitor impacts. Consequently, a study has been undertaken to determine ways of minimising the impact on residents and the environment. The results of this highlight the need for a sustainable approach, promoting public transport, cycling and walking whilst controlling parking and enforcing local restrictions.
How have the local community been involved in the nomination process?
The local community including the Downe Residents’ Association were consulted on the Nomination and are involved in the 2009 submission. The local community are also involved in the Steering group and Visitor Management groups.
The Exploring in Darwin's Footsteps programme of events has already been very successful in attracting over 2,000 people from the local area. Now a further Grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund will enable the recruitment of an outreach officer to develop and deliver exciting activities and celebratory events for the local community and general public. Also educational resources will be produced to deliver Darwin learning to schools.
Numerous projects, particularly relating to education will be set-up in conjunction with the World Heritage Property in which the public will be able to participate.
Who is paying for it all?
Bromley Council has secured a grant to help fund the World Heritage bid. English Heritage, Natural England, Transport for London, the London Development Agency, the Greater London Authority, SITA and the Heritage Lottery Fund have also contributed. It is anticipated that World Heritage status would attract more funds and support for conservation, enhancement and promotion. Further work to secure funding is being made.
How is the town planning system affected?
One of the key outcomes of gaining World Heritage status is to be able to implement a co-ordinated and positive approach to management of the area. Government policy currently states that although World Heritage status does not place additional statutory controls over development and protection of the inscribed area, inclusion of a Property on the World Heritage list does highlight the outstanding international importance of the area as a key material consideration to be taken into account by the local planning authority in determining planning and listed building consent applications. The Local Planning Authority is encouraged to work with owners and managers of the World Heritage Property to ensure that comprehensive management plans are in place. The Heritage Protection for the 21st Century Government White Paper puts into place new measures to update planning policy to put the historic environment at the heart of the planning system and strengthen the consideration of World Heritage Properties within the planning system.