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. This was announced by the UK Government in May 2012.
The nomination was overseen by the Forth Bridge World Heritage Steering Group of the Forth Bridges Forum – a body set up by the Scottish Government to promote the Forth Bridge, Forth Road Bridge and forthcoming Queensferry Crossing.
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.
A report was commissioned from Rebanks Consulting, headed up by James Rebanks, an experienced consultant specialising in World Heritage whose research is recognised by UNESCO. Whilst working in the communities at each end of the Bridge during a six-week period in late 2012, James set about identifying what the potential benefits might be, together with the associated challenges and constraints that might arise. The report is available here.
Rebanks found that support for the World Heritage nomination was very strong, especially amongst the business community, but that there were also a number of concerns, mainly relating to local infrastructure. The Forth Bridges Forum therefore undertook a 12-week public consultation in the summer of 2013 to identify the main issues that emerged from Rebanks’ work and pose specific questions for the public to consider. It sought input from as wide an audience as possible, both on the potential value of World Heritage designation, and on how its impact can be managed positively so as to benefit not only the future of the Bridge itself but also local communities and other groups who might be affected by its inscription.
The consultation included a number of public sessions and a short online questionnaire, which provided supporting information and questions designed to draw together views on the Nomination and its potential benefits. This feedback informed the content of the Nomination Document and Management Plan which were submitted to UNESCO in early 2014
They then underwent a demanding 18-month process of scrutiny and valuation by UNESCO and its advisory body ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites). This includes 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 was also a site visit from an approved assessor in October 2014.
In May 2015, ICOMOS announced its recommendation the Forth Bridge be inscribed and this was ratified at the 39th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Bonn, Germany, on July 05 2015.