New chairman for Bath World Heritage Group

A new Chairman has been appointed to the City of Bath World Heritage Steering Group.

Professor Barry Gilbertson will lead the group, which brings together 22 representatives from international, national and local government, conservation, heritage, business and education organisations to oversee the management of Bath as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


As Chairman, Professor Gilbertson will be independent of Bath & North East Somerset Council, which acts as chief steward for the World Heritage Site under authority delegated from UNESCO to the UK Government through the Department of Culture, Media and Sport down to the local Council.

A Chartered Surveyor by training, his extensive career as a former equity partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and his subsequent experience as a corporate chairman or director of four public companies in Austria, Canada and the UK will support him well in this role.

He served as the 123rd President of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in 2004/5 and has held advisory roles with the United Nations Real Estate Advisory Group, the Bank of England and the UK Government. His career has taken him around the world to 34 countries and has involved responsibility for major international schemes. He currently serves on the Council of the University of Bath, holds the title of Visiting Professor at Northumbria University in Newcastle and the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester and has been a visiting lecturer at 21 universities worldwide.

Professor Gilbertson lives in Bath and is the current Chairman of the Circus Area Resident’s Association. He stood down as a Trustee of the Bath Preservation Trust in order to ensure his independence in undertaking his new important role for the city.

Professor Gilbertson said: “It would be an esteemed honour to be appointed to this role at any time. However, I feel particularly honoured to have been chosen at a time when the future of our city’s prosperity requires such a delicate balance between the protection and enhancement of our heritage and the desire to expand our office business community, supported by more housing and commerce. Our city is the only European city, other than Venice, to hold the inscription of Outstanding Universal Value for the entire urban area.

“The way that our heritage has been protected is an acknowledged example of how a modern living city can successfully coexist with an internationally acclaimed World Heritage Site. We are not our past, but Bath’s past must influence our future, as an extraordinary place to live, work and play. Our unique Roman and Georgian heritage, the Scheduled Ancient Monument sites, our more than five thousand Listed Buildings, the Hot Springs and our beautiful green countryside setting, must all be passed on safely for the enjoyment of future generations of residents and visitors alike.”

Councillor Paul Myers (Conservative, Midsomer Norton Redfield), Bath and North East Somerset Council Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “I am delighted that Professor Gilbertson has accepted this key position. His experience and expertise make him uniquely qualified to undertake this role, so crucial to the future well-being of our city. We are entering a period of significant change and the World Heritage Site Steering Group provides an essential forum to ensure that the balance between conservation and change is properly considered and maintained.”

Professor Gilbertson began his voluntary role in early July and will serve an initial three-year term.

What is World Heritage?

World Heritage Sites are defined as ‘places of outstanding universal value to the whole of humanity’. There are currently 1052 World Heritage Sites world-wide. Famous sites include The Taj Mahal, Pyramids of Giza, Great Wall of China and the Grand Canyon. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee considers adding a small number of new sites each year.

‘Outstanding universal value’ means cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries. This is defined by the extent to which                 the site meets certain criteria.

The UK signed the UNESCO World Heritage Convention in 1984. In doing so it committed to identify, protect, conserve and interpret its World Heritage Sites and pass them on to future generations. 193 state parties have signed the convention.

The City of Bath World Heritage Site

UNESCO added The City of Bath as a ‘cultural site’ to its World Heritage List on 12 December 1987.   The main reasons for Bath’s inclusion are its:

  • Roman Remains – the Roman Baths and Temple thermal establishment;
  • 18th Century Architecture – neo-classical public buildings and set-piece developments such as terraces, crescents, squares and the Circus by Palladian-inspired Bath architects;
  • 18th Century Town Planning – its innovative and cohesive ‘garden city’ concept, harmonised with its green landscape setting;
  • Social Setting – its role as a destination for pilgrimage and the social aspirations of the fashionable spa culture that created the Georgian city.

In identifying these unique qualities, UNESCO also recognised the importance of:

  • the Hot Springs – the only ones in Britain and the reason for the city’s existence;
  • the Landscape Setting – the valley of the River Avon whose hills provided the stone to build the city and form the backdrop to the city today.

A few key facts

‘World Heritage Site’ is the correct designation. The term ‘World Heritage City’ is sometimes used colloquially but has no status of its own.

Unlike many other cities that include a World Heritage Site, the whole of Bath (approx. 29 square km) and not just its historic core is inscribed. Within Europe, only Venice provides a comparable example where the entire urban area is inscribed.

Bath contains nearly 5,000 listed buildings, including the highest concentration of grade l and ll* listed buildings outside central London. This generates approximately 1,500 Planning and Listed Building Consent applications per year – undoubtedly the highest of any UK site.

66% of Bath is designated as a Conservation Area, giving a degree of statutory protection   to most of the city and its buildings.

88,859 people live within the site and approximately 4.5m people visit Bath each year, adding an estimated £380m to the local economy and supporting an estimated 10,000 jobs.

Other UK World Heritage Sites

There are 30 World Heritage Sites in the UK (and overseas territories) and 17 in England.

Other UK cities containing a World Heritage Site include Canterbury (Cathedral, St. Augustine’s Abbey and St. Martin’s Church), Durham (Castle and Cathedral), Edinburgh (Old and New Towns), and Liverpool (waterfront, commercial and cultural areas).

Within London, Maritime Greenwich, the Tower of London, Westminster Palace & Saint Margaret’s Church and Westminster Abbey all have separate World Heritage designations.

Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall in Scotland are the only Roman World Heritage Sites in the UK. They belong to a Frontiers of the Roman Empire group created in 2008.

Other west country World Heritage Sites include Stonehenge & Avebury, the Cornwall and West Devon mining landscape and the Jurassic Coast, the only ‘natural’ World Heritage Site in England.

The World Heritage emblem, designed by Belgian Michel Olyff and adopted in 1978, represents the interdependence of natural and cultural diversity.  The central square symbolizes human skill and inspiration, whilst the circle celebrates nature. The emblem is round, like the world, and symbolizes global protection for heritage of all humankind.

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