World Heritage Bid
It was announced on Monday 28th May 2012 by the UK Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) that the Forth Bridge is to prepare a nomination for submission to UNESCO in 2014. The World Heritage Committee is expected to make a decision on the nomination at its 39th meeting in 2015. Successful nomination of the Bridge would make it Scotland’s sixth World Heritage Site.
Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said:
“The Forth Bridge is a Scottish icon that is recognised the world over. We are extremely excited that we have the opportunity to make the case for the Bridge being inscribed as Scotland’s sixth World Heritage Site.
“To have the Bridge inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site would be a tremendous accolade for the Bridge itself, for the local communities and for Scotland. This nomination has the potential to be a celebration of our country’s incredible engineering pedigree and ingenuity and I wish the team working on it all the best.”
A World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by UNESCO for being of such special cultural or physical significance that it has ‘Outstanding Universal Value’, or ‘OUV’. The List is maintained by the World Heritage Centre administered by UNESCO. The Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage was signed in 1972 and has since been ratified by 190 countries across the world.
By 2012, 962 sites had been listed in 157 countries, of which 745 sites are cultural, 188 natural, and 29 both cultural and natural properties. There are 28 World Heritage Sites in the UK, of which five are in Scotland. These are The Frontiers of the Roman Empire (the Antonine Wall), St Kilda, Edinburgh Old and New Towns, New Lanark, and The Heart of Neolithic Orkney. In Scotland, World Heritage does not in itself add an extra layer of statutory protection, but it can and is integrated into development planning processes and associated guidance.
Nominating a World Heritage Site
World Heritage listing is a great accolade and is therefore much sought-after. To have a chance of being included on the World Heritage List, a site must first be formally nominated by the government ‘State Party’ of a country, after which it has to be considered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. This process tends to take several years of preparation and subsequent assessment, and is not always successful.
The UK Tentative List was reviewed in 2010/11. This led to three Scottish sites, including the Forth Bridge, being selected alongside eight other candidate sites. All eleven sites were then invited to submit Technical Evaluations making their case for nomination. It was subsequently decided by an Expert Panel that the Forth Bridge would be the first site from the new Tentative List to be submitted to UNESCO.
Once a site has been selected for nomination, the key pieces of work are the development of a Nomination Document and a Management Plan. This consultation will play a key role in the development of these documents.
Management Plans should specify how the outstanding universal value of a World Heritage Site will be preserved, preferably through participatory means. They are also important in determining how an understanding of the importance and attributes of the site will be developed and promoted.
The purpose of an effective Management Plan and management system is to ensure the effective protection of the nominated property for present and future generations. Such plans help to set out clearly the special qualities and values of the site, to establish a framework for decision making, and give information on threats and opportunities for each site in order that it can be managed in a sustainable manner.
It is a policy of the UK Government that all UK World Heritage Sites must have active Management Plans in place, as well as being a requirement of the UNESCO Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention.
The nomination document provides the basis for the evaluation of the property and directly influences the subsequent decision of the World Heritage Committee as to whether or not it should be inscribed in the World Heritage List. It makes the justification for its inscription, based on the criteria set out by UNESCO, includes a description of the site, some details on the existing protection and management of the site, its state of conservation, and information on known threats and potential opportunities.
Once the site’s nomination documents have been submitted, they will undergo a demanding 18-month process of scrutiny and evaluation by UNESCO and its advisory body ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites). This will include a desk-based assessment of the nomination dossier, deciding whether the site has outstanding universal value (OUV) and if adequate management systems, protection and resources are in place to ensure that its OUV can be maintained. There will also be a site visit from an approved assessor.
UNESCO demands that, to be included on the World Heritage List, a cultural site must satisfy at least one of its criteria, which are:
(i) "represents a masterpiece of human creative genius"
(ii) "exhibits 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"
(iii) "bears a unique or exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared"
(iv) "is an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural, or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history"
(v) "is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture, or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change"
(vi) "is directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance"
What Is Being Nominated?
The proposed site is defined as The Forth Bridge, which carries the mainline East Coast railway for 1.6 miles (2.5 kilometres) across the Firth of Forth between Fife on the north bank and Edinburgh and the Lothians to the south. The Nominated Site’s boundaries are defined by the single contract that was let for the construction of the masonry and steel elements of the Bridge, and are represented in the original contract drawings. The proposed World Heritage Site does not therefore extend beyond the Bridge itself because it is only for this single structure that outstanding universal value can be fully demonstrated. It is, however, contained at each end by existing Conservation Areas, and its immediate surroundings are therefore protected and managed by well-established designation and planning controls.
UNESCO requires that the outstanding universal value of any World Heritage Site is protected from developments deemed potentially harmful, so the purpose of the Nomination and its associated Management Plan will be to define that value, and to determine how the impact of a successful nomination can be positively managed to ensure benefits and a sustainable future for the World Heritage Site.
A key factor when considering the protection of World Heritage Sites is their setting. In the case of the Forth Bridge, the potential impact on its outstanding universal value of developments close to or in adjacent areas around the Firth of Forth has been subject to rigorous study using computer-generated viewshed analyses, and the physical investigation of as many viewpoints as possible. The conclusion is that the immense scale and dominant presence of the Bridge is such that there is no need for a separate area of protection or ‘Buffer Zone’, and that the most important neighbouring structures associated with earlier crossings of the Forth are already adequately protected through listing, conservation area and designed-landscape designations.
Who is Behind the Nomination?
The nomination is being overseen by the Forth Bridge World Heritage Steering Group of the Forth Bridges Forum. The Steering Group includes Network Rail as owner of the Bridge, Transport Scotland, Historic Scotland, Fife Council, City of Edinburgh Council, Queensferry & District Community Council, Queensferry Ambition, North Queensferry Community Council, North Queensferry Heritage Trust, and Visit Scotland.
Statement of Outstanding Universal Value
The Forth Bridge is a globally important triumph of engineering, at once structural and aesthetic. Linking the eastern Scottish railway network across the Forth estuary, or firth, it represents the pinnacle of 19th-century bridge construction and is without doubt the world’s greatest cantilever trussed bridge.
When opened in 1890 it had the longest bridge spans in the world, a record held for 27 years. No other trussed bridge approaches its perfect balance of structural elegance and strength, nor its overall scale, and no bridge is so distinctive from others as is the Forth Bridge from its peers. Superlative in its application of novel technologies, the Forth Bridge used and influenced engineering know-how that has become international in scope. The bridge continues to act as a vital transport artery and shows in an exemplary way how a historic bridge can be sensitively managed to meet modern needs. Painted ‘Forth Bridge red’, a task famously set into folklore as endless, this icon of Scotland perfectly encapsulates 19th century belief in mankind’s ultimate ability to overcome any obstacle: the impossible could indeed be made possible.
Justification for criteria under which inscription is proposed:
Criterion (i): represents a masterpiece of human creative genius
The bridge is an aesthetic triumph in its avoidance of decoration and yet an achievement of tremendous grace for something so solid. Its steel-built cantilever design represents a unique level of new human creative genius in conquering a scale and depth of natural barrier that had never before been overcome by man.
Criterion (ii): exhibits an important interchange of human values on developments in architecture and technology
The Forth Bridge was a crucible for the application to civil engineering of new design principles and new construction methods. It was at that time the most-visited and best-documented construction project in the world. It therefore exerted great influence on civil engineering practice the world-over and is an icon to engineers world-wide.
Criterion (iv): an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history
The Forth Bridge represents a significant stage in human history, namely the revolution in transport and communications. The railway age, of which it is a potent symbol, was made possible by, and influenced the speed and connectivity of, the industrial revolution. The bridge forms a unique milestone in the evolution of bridge and other steel construction, is innovative in its design, its concept, its materials and in its enormous scale. It marks a landmark event in the application of science to architecture that went on to profoundly influence mankind in ways not limited to bridge-building.
Establishing a clear vision is an essential means of ensuring that a World Heritage Site can be effectively managed and protected, whilst also delivering benefits for its local communities. As part of this process, it is important that management partners and local communities understand what World Heritage listing might achieve, if everyone works towards those goals. The creation of an agreed vision also allows for the development of a framework of longer-term aims, which in turn informs the priorities for medium-term objectives, based on the analysis of key current issues.
In the case of the Forth Bridge, the excellent state of the Bridge itself following Network Rail’s recent restoration programme allows more of a focus on wider benefits that World Heritage inscription might bring. With this in mind, and following his work with the Forth Bridge World Heritage Steering Group and local stakeholders, James Rebanks proposed the following vision:
The Forth Bridge will be a World Heritage site that changes people’s lives for the better. A World Heritage Site that brings stakeholders together to make new things possible, at a global, national, regional and local scale. A World Heritage Site that people from around the world can learn about, or visit and have a genuinely world class experience.
A World Heritage Site that is an exemplar of best practice: stimulating progressive changes to the infrastructure of local communities to ensure tourism is effectively managed and sustainable. Also, crucially, World Heritage listing will benefit local communities by improving quality of life and by raising the profile of local communities as places to live, work and invest. This nomination aspires to make a Scottish icon into a global icon: a showcase of the best of Scottish endeavour, imagination, engineering and design. (James Rebanks (2013), The Forth Bridge World Heritage Nomination: - Realising the Potential Benefits)