Durham Castle and Cathedral and their immediate setting were designated or ‘inscribed’ as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. Since that time, while the individual institutions which own the designated land have continued to manage their own estates, they have also met together with other key stakeholders to form a partnership known as the World Heritage Site (WHS) Coordinating Committee to oversee the strategic management of the site as a whole.
The WHS Coordinating Committee is currently comprised of representatives from:
- Durham Cathedral (Chair) (landowner)
- Durham University (landowner)
- St John’s College (landowner)
- University College (landowner)
- Durham County Council (statutory consultee)
- English Heritage (statutory consultee)
- City of Durham Trust
- ICOMOS (UNESCO International Council on Monuments and Sites), and
- Visit County Durham.
The Committee published the first WHS Management Plan (WHS MP) in 2006 in which the significance of the site was articulated and objectives and actions identified to conserve and enhance the site and its setting. The most important of these objectives had been achieved by the end of 2013 as follows:
- The establishment of the post of Durham WHS Coordinator to support the Coordinating Committee (2008)
- The expansion of the WHS area to include Palace Green (2008)
- The delivery of a WHS Visitor Centre (2011)
- The delivery of the Durham WHS interactive website and online search facility (2012)
- The updating of the WHS Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (SOUV) (2013)
Therefore, towards the end of 2013, work began on the first review of the WHS MP. It has been prepared by expert groups working thematically, edited by the Coordinator and Chair and approved in Final Draft form by the WHS Coordinating Committee for wider key stakeholder and public consultation. The new plan will cover the period 2016-2021 and builds on the objectives and actions set out in the preceding plan. It sets the overarching strategy for achieving the correct balance between conservation, access, the interests of the local community and the sustainable use of the Site. The primary aim of the strategy is to protect the Site to sustain its OUV as agreed by UNESCO, develop understanding of the site and its setting, provide access and interpretation for visitors, and allow its continued sustainable economic use.
The Durham World Heritage Site Coordinator’s role is to coordinate the implementation of the Management Plan in order to maintain the site’s OUV as agreed by UNESCO and to balance the interests of conservation with the development and ongoing sustainability of the WHS.