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Action plan for Chatham’s World Heritage bid

Date: 26/02/2008           Category: Economic Development

An action plan for the campaign to win World Heritage status for Chatham Dockyard and its defences has been drawn up following the latest meeting of the Chatham World Heritage Partnership, the bid’s consultative body. The Pembroke building – former naval barracks, and now part of the Universities at Medway campus – was the appropriate venue for a lively discussion attended by over 80 members of the 250-strong partnership. Anyone can join the partnership through the project website at www.chathamworldheritage.co.uk. Partners receive invites to future meetings, as well as electronic updates on progress and requests for input. The full report of the meeting is also available from the website. The meeting discussed opportunities and challenges facing the planned World Heritage Site application, including how best to present and promote the site to international audiences and future generations, and how to protect it. Leader of Medway Council Cllr Rodney Chambers introduced the event. He said: “This meeting has taken the bid one further vital step along the road to achieving World Heritage status for this very important part of Medway’s heritage and the benefits it will bring to residents and business in the area. “I’m giving the project my full backing and am very pleased with the progress that is being made and the growing popular support for the project that was evident at this latest meeting.” The meeting was the first to be chaired by Lindsey Morgan, who took up the voluntary role in November 2007. She said: “I was delighted by how popular the event proved among local residents, businesses and stakeholders. I’m determined to ensure everyone’s views are reflected to give Chatham’s World Heritage the future it deserves.” Various work-groups at the event were organised by Chris Blandford Associates, the consultancy that is developing Chatham’s World Heritage application. Project Manager Joanne Cable said: “Producing the application is a complex process. Justifying why Chatham’s heritage is so significant is crucial to success, but is in many ways the easy part. Our application will also be judged on local commitment to the site’s future. This is where the partnership’s contributions will really strengthen Chatham’s case.” Seven main action points emerged from the work-groups: (1) The precise boundary needs to be defined and widely promoted. This will reflect thorough understanding of Chatham’s significance, and its major contribution to world history. (2) Chatham must be respected as a living-working site, taking into account the continuing military presence of the Royal Engineers, and the regeneration of the town centre and waterfront. Heritage and regeneration will go hand in hand – the Universities at Medway complex is an excellent model. (3) A set of core principles to guide future decisions on the site’s management, use and promotion will be drawn up. (4) Enforcement of existing site protections – in particular Conservation Area status – should be reviewed to ensure all of Chatham’s heritage is adequately safeguarded, not just the listed and scheduled assets. (5) This includes protecting important views to and from the site. (6) The application is a chance to tell the whole story of Chatham’s significance, and unite the heritage offer. It is as important to present this locally as it is internationally. (7) Closer partnership working will align funds and resources, prevent duplication and missed opportunities, improve visitor experience and help tell the overall tale of Chatham’s legacy. The next Partnership meeting in May will focus on specific actions to be taken top achieve the above objectives. Additional partnership contributions are always welcome. Background: (1) Decisions on which sites will be added to the World Heritage List are made by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco). It encourages the identification, protection and preservation of outstanding cultural and natural heritage around the world. The list comprises 850 sites in 138 countries. Chatham Dockyard and its Defences is on national government’s shortlist of sites to propose for World Heritage Site status. Their assessment of Chatham’s significance states: “Chatham Dockyard is the supreme example of a Royal Dockyard largely unaltered from the age of sail…. The importance of the dockyard is enhanced by its close association with contemporary military establishments. This combination of a substantially intact 18th century Dockyard with its contemporary massive landward defences is unique.” (2) The UK proposes one site each year. The application is prepared locally, but submitted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. This year’s application is the Antonine Wall, the northernmost frontier of the Roman empire. It was submitted in 2007, assessed in 2008. Following years are the Pontcysyllte canal aqueduct (2008), Darwin’s House at Downe (2009), and the Anglo-Saxon twin monastery at Wearmouth and Jarrow (2010). (3) Medway’s World Heritage Site application is possible thanks to support from the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), English Heritage and Medway Council. [ends]