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Durham University News

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Durham’s World Heritage Site expands

(4 September 2008)

Durham’s World Heritage Site, which already includes the Cathedral and Castle, has been extended to include the Palace Green and some of the surrounding buildings.

A recommendation by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) was approved by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee. Palace Green, the area of green space that links the Castle and the Cathedral, is, along with Durham Castle, owned by Durham University. The boundary extension also includes the buildings that surround Palace Green, which were mostly built between the 17th and 18th centuries. However, the most remarkable and oldest is the15th century Exchequer House, which now forms part of the University’s Palace Green Library. The extension also includes several houses built between the 15th and 19th centuries in Owengate, Saddler Street, North Bailey and Dun Cow Lane, some of which are owned by the University. One of the buildings on Owengate, a former almshouse, is earmarked to become the first Durham World Heritage Site Visitor Centre. The original World Heritage Site title was inscribed in 1986, to take in Durham Cathedral and its immediate surrounds, the annex of the south-west access path including the bridge over the River Wear, and Durham Castle. The ICOMOS said that extending the boundaries would make the site continuous, strengthen its significance and make management simpler and more coherent. The new boundaries “would more fully represent the historical significance of the property, and enable a better understanding of its urban landscape,” it said in its recommendation. Durham University Vice Chancellor, Professor Chris Higgins, said: “Durham University is the only university in the world that can say its community owns, lives and works in a World Heritage Site. “This is further recognition for the outstanding site at Palace Green, which is a centre point of Durham and Durham University and is already enjoyed by many members of the public. “We always knew that all this space was of global importance but it is extremely satisfying for us to have this formally confirmed by international experts. We now want to help more of the public – both from the North East and from around the world - enjoy what the University has to offer.” The first co-ordinator for the World Heritage Site, Seif El Rashidi, was appointed earlier this year. He brings a wealth of experience in conservation and heritage management, will co-ordinate and implement plans for the site, maximising its potential as a historical and educational resource for its local community and many visitors. Canon Rosalind Brown, Chair of the World Heritage Site Co-ordinating Committee, said "The inclusion in the World Heritage Site of Palace Green, which links the Cathedral and the Castle, enables us to take a cohesive approach to the care and enhancement of this wonderful site. This is very good news." Harvey Dowdy, Regeneration Manager at Durham City Vision, said: “This is wonderful news as it emphasises the international importance of Durham City. The extended area includes the building at 7 Owengate in which Durham City Vision has ambitions to develop a dedicated World Heritage Site visitor centre. It will be great to have that facility within the new boundary.”

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