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UNESCO asks for further report on London tall buildings

The UN's World Heritage Committee has decided not to place the Tower of London and Westminster World Heritage Sites on its 'endangered' list but has asked for a further report next year.

Ken Livingstone in Potters Fields Park
Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has always refuted suggestions that London's World Heritage Sites are compromised by proposed tall buildings

The Tower of London and Westminster World Heritage Sites had been threatened with inclusion on the List of World Heritage in Danger following concerns by the World Heritage Committee about the impact of new developments north and south of the river in the vicinity of both sites.

In November 2006 UNESCO sent a mission to London with the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) to consider the appropriateness of tall building proposals near to the Tower of London and Westminster World Heritage Sites.

Locations visited by the inspectors included Potters Fields where Berkeley Homes intends to build up to six cylindrical towers.

Since then new management plans have been prepared for both the Tower of London and Palace of Westminster.

Both management plans recommend 'buffer zones' to protect the setting of these heritage sites from inappropriate development.

Paddy Pugh, English Heritage's head of advice for London, recently told Property Week that the proposed Elizabeth House development in Waterloo is one of the buildings that could be affected by the buffer zone proposals.

"The Government warmly welcomes the World Heritage Committee's decision not to place the Tower of London and Westminster World Heritage Sites in the World Heritage in Danger List," says Culture minister David Lammy.

"This is good news for all those involved in the conservation and management of these unique places and recognises the efforts of all concerned who have worked intensively to meet UNESCO's concerns.

"Completion of comprehensive management plans is a particular achievement. The documents will provide blueprints for sustaining and conserving the outstanding universal values which makes these sites internationally and nationally important.

"We will continue to look closely at ways to further strengthen protections for our World Heritage Sites and their settings, building on proposals set out earlier this year in 'Heritage Protection for the 21st Century', and will be reporting our progress to the World Heritage Committee next year."

The UNESCO decision has also received support from English Heritage. Chairman Sir Neil Cossons commented: "I am pleased with the UNESCO decision. This represents a major vote of confidence in the UK's ability to manage and protect its most important historic sites. The Tower of London, Westminster Palace and Westminster Abbey are world-renowned architectural masterpieces – it is vital that we manage their future with care and thoughtfulness.

"The UK is deeply committed to protecting its heritage and we are glad that UNESCO has recognised that we have a sufficiently robust planning system as well as the necessary knowledge and experience to do so. However, we cannot allow ourselves to be complacent and English Heritage, together with the stakeholder groups for both sites, will now be taking forward the agreed five-year programme of work in the Management Plans."

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