World Heritage Sites are places that the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO has inscribed on a list of international sites because of their outstanding universal value, the importance of which is so great as to transcend national boundaries. Countries with world heritage sites are required to afford the highest level of protection to these places, which means not only looking after the sites themselves but also their setting. This inevitably results in some constraints upon development within or adjacent to world heritage sites.
Wales currently has three world heritage sites – the Castles and Town Walls of Edward I in Gwynedd at Caernarfon, Conwy, Beaumaris and Harlech in north-west Wales; Blaenavon Industrial Landscape in south-east Wales; and Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal in north-east Wales. Each of these covers a fairly large area straddling a number of local authorities and has a management plan which details the planning policies of each authority regarding the protection of the world heritage site. Some, such as Pontcysyllte, have buffer zones to add a supplementary degree of protection within the landscape adjacent to the site while others, such as Edward’s Castles, have defined their Essential Setting and Significant Views within the management plan to protect the surrounding area. Each of the Welsh world heritage sites, their buffer zone or their essential setting/significant view contains many privately owned houses or land.
The protection of world heritage sites in Wales is effected by Welsh Government planning guidance, the planning policies of local authorities, and, often, supplementary planning guidance issued by the local authorities to guide developers and owners of properties within world heritage sites or their buffer zones. Such is the importance of these sites, that they are almost always protected also by scheduling or listing or conservation area status, though the boundaries of the protected areas may not always be the same. Any development or changes made to properties within world heritage sites will require planning consent and may require scheduled monument or listed building consent as well.
If you own or intend to develop property within a word heritage site or its buffer zone, essential setting or significant view, you should first contact the local planning authority to discuss any special guidance they have produced, or any general requirements for development. An Access and Design Statement including potential impact on the world heritage site or setting may well be required. In addition, a scheduled monument consent application to Cadw or listed building consent application to the local authority may be required. Larger scale developments will require environmental statements in support of their planning applications.