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Darwins Landscape Laboratory -Darwin's Landscape Laboratory, decision deferred by UNESCO - 1st Aug 2010

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Darwin's Landscape Laboratory, decision deferred by UNESCO - 1st Aug 2010

Darwin's Landscape Laboratory, the bid selected by the UK government for World Heritage status has been deferred by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

At it's meeting in Brasilia, Brazil the World Heritage Committee announced that although Darwin's Landscape Laboratory was very strong in terms of recognising scientific achievement, further in depth study and analysis was needed before the site could be considered for World Heritage designation. The Committee voted to defer the nomination back to the UK authorities for these issues to be addressed.

The UK stands by its view that Down House and its surroundings are a uniquely valuable site for the World Heritage of science. The properties included are all well looked after by English Heritage, the London Borough of Bromley and the Wildlife Trusts responsible, with good access and excellent information for visitors. The UK is glad and proud to have Darwin's Landscape Laboratory in its care, and to be able to provide its heritage to the world.

Leader of Bromley Council, Councillor Stephen Carr said:
"We are delighted that Darwin's Landscape Laboratory has been recognised by the UK Government worthy of consideration as a World Heritage Site. It is as an outstanding site for the heritage of science, and for the world’s understanding of biodiversity. IUCN have inspected the site and established that almost all the natural features that were important for Darwin in his science survive. The other changes that have taken place are not significant. Bromley residents will know how special the Borough is and it is remarkable that we can walk in the historic woods and country around the village of Downe, just as Darwin did over one hundred years ago. It is essential that we maintain and protect the natural environment for our future generations"

In 2005 the World Heritage Committee clearly stated that it wished to have more sites of scientific significance represented on the list of World Heritage Sites. We believe that Darwin's Landscape Laboratory clearly met this aim.

There is no question that Darwin's Landscape Laboratory has outstanding value as Sir David Attenborough declared in support of the bid:

'The house and its surroundings must surely have a pre-eminent claim to be given World Heritage Status'

In the last two years with Darwin anniversaries, his heritage has been celebrated in over 110 countries around the world.

A diverse partnership of public bodies and private individuals, both national and local, have shared a vision and have agreed aims and objectives. The partnership firmly desire to carry out with the implementation of the many locally delivered projects for local people.

As the Borough with London's largest surviving area of countryside, we have a duty for future generations to continue its good stewardship. Local people have always understood the real value of this landscape and do continue to care. We have many protections already in place and the partnership remains committed to conservation of this treasure. It is not necessary that this site's value is only recognised through World Heritage Status and the partnership remains committed and will carry on the task with renewed energy.

The importance and value of the site for heritage, biodiversity, education and for the preservation for future generations has already been recognised through many successful grant applications. Organisations including Heritage Lottery Fund, Transport for London, London Development Agency, SITA, Natural England and the London Borough of Bromley have all funded exciting projects that have been and are currently active. More are planned, so that funding is available for maintaining the activity of the site.

Projects based on Darwin's Landscape Laboratory have benefitted the local community in many ways. Outreach and education projects have delivered Darwin inspired learning for Bromley schools, helped with delivery of Darwin education projects, Darwin Days and science weeks. Education visits to the site have been covered by external funding along with free education resources for all primary & secondary schools. Workshops with the Rambert Dance Company, professional musicians and local artists to name a few have all enriched the local community and helped to celebrate our local heritage.

Significant improvements have been achieved through the provision of walking trails following in the footsteps of Darwin. Other routes and activities have been developed for teenagers to use and download on their mp3 players and mobile phones.
Funding for the site has provided improved rights of way and signage around the site. The Sunday bus service has been implemented through pressure from the partnership to allow greater access for the local community.

Darwin's Landscape Laboratory, decision deferred by UNESCO - 1st Aug 2010