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EU should help protect world heritage sites, says Liz Lynne

November 10, 2010 2:18 PM

Lib Dem MEP Liz Lynne is backing an all party call for the European Commission to help preserve the UNESCO list of world heritage sites, including Stonehenge and the Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire.

The list could soon include the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter, the Wye Valley south of Hereford and Offa's Dyke along the Shropshire and Herefordshire border, which have all been put forward for Britain's 'Tentative List' to be given World Heritage status by UNESCO after 2011.

Liz Lynne, MEP for the West Midlands region, has signed a written Declaration in the European Parliament calling for specific measures to improve conservation and protection of Europe's most important heritage sites.

The declaration has been launched by Euro MPs from different parties after concern that some heritage sites were in danger of neglect. There was anger in Italy after the 2000-year-old Gladiator House, one of the few intact buildings at Pompeii, recently collapsed.

Liz Lynne said: "Normally heritage matters are determined by national and local government but the EU could play a useful contributory role in helping to protect the most important heritage sites of truly global standing.

"The Declaration is carefully worded, it is not asking for a blank cheque but gives the Commission discretion to look at what could be done effectively to help those with the added responsibility of caring for a World Heritage site.

"This could include the exchange of best practice in heritage management, sensitive tourism, conservation techniques and possibly other forms of grant help.

"Britain has a relatively large number of UNESCO world heritage sites which in my region includes Ironbridge, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, which has been been superbly looked after by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.

"I also support the bids for World Heritage status for the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, the Wye Valley and for Offa's Dyke, the ancient boundary of the Kingdom of Mercia. This could provide a boost to local tourism and create jobs, but there will also be a responsibility too."

"But given the constraints now facing local councils and the Department of Culture, sources of funding to conserve and promote additional sites will be limited, so making sites eligible for targeted EU project help would be a good idea."

ENDS

Note to editors: There are currently 336 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the EU, 28 of them in the UK. 17 are in England, including the Ironbridge Gorge in Telford, birthplace of the industrial revolution and the first blast furnace. The list of applicants to DCMS for Britain's new 'Tentative List' for UNESCO to consider in 2011 was published in July. It includes the Wye Valley south of Hereford, Offa's Dyke along the Welsh border, which runs through Herefordshire and Shropshire and the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter.