Lake District World Heritage Site: What are the heritage planning implications?

Lake District view

The English Lake District was officially inscribed on the World Heritage List as a cultural landscape on 12 July at the close of the 2017 World Heritage Committee[1], making the Lake District National Park a World Heritage Site (WHS) with immediate effect.

In the UK, inscription on the World Heritage List does not afford additional statutory protection. However, the National Park is now a ‘designated heritage asset’ under the terms of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF); and any development with the potential to affect the designated area will need to be assessed against the policy requirements of the NPPF.

Each WHS has a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) setting out why it is of international significance. The attributes of the Lake District WHS reflect the diverse qualities of the cultural landscape and its international influence on the picturesque, romantic and conservation movements. A range of key attributes have been identified including the Lake District’s extraordinary beauty and harmony; the simple functional character of its vernacular buildings; the fusion between the natural landscape and the communal farming system; and the long history of settlement, agriculture and industry.

The current Development Plan for the Lake District National Park is the Lake District Local Plan. This is currently under review and the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) has confirmed that it will be assessing applications against the current set of policies after designation. It has also confirmed that it will need to develop its assessment of planning applications to ensure it has the additional information required following WHS inscription. 

The practical implication is that where development has the potential to affect the OUV of the WHS, planning applications will need to be supported by a robust Heritage Statement. As with other WHS in the UK, there may be an additional requirement for a Heritage Impact Assessment to be prepared in accordance with ICOMOS ‘Guidance on Heritage Impact Assessments for Cultural World Heritage Properties’ (January 2011).

The Turley Heritage team has extensive experience in advising on change within, or within the setting of, World Heritage Sites. We provide heritage advice, NPPF compliant Heritage Statements and ICOMOS compliant Heritage Impact Assessments and can advise on necessary consultation with Historic England.

19 July 2017

[1] The English Lake District WHS was inscribed on the basis of meeting the following criteria from the UNESCO Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention 2016:

  • (ii) to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;
  • (v) to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;
  • (vi)  to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria).