York is bidding to be a World Heritage Site
York is bidding to be a World Heritage Site

A key objective of York’s forthcoming Cultural Strategy, for the city to become a world heritage site, could be scuppered before the strategy is even adopted, according to the council’s Labour opposition leader, Councillor Janet Looker. York hopes to join the likes of Bath and Edinburgh on the list, but the Tory government’s International Development Secretary, Penny Mordaunt MP, has indicated she wants to follow the examples of the United States and Israel in withdrawing from UNESCO, the UN body responsible international cooperation in the fields of education, science and culture.

Cllr Looker said:“I find this news quite depressing, even if it does reflect the prevailing insularity with which we as a country seem to operate at present.  I very much hope that it doesn’t happen.  The UK contribution annually is only £11m, and the economic benefits calculated at well in excess of £80m, so it appears to be proposal driven by politics more than anything else.

“UNESCO heritage site status is significant in attracting visitors and is something York has wanted to pursue for some years.  We cannot sit on our laurels and just assume people will come to York; we need to constantly work to draw people to come and spend their money in the local economy”.

“The idea of a Government Minister pursuing an isolationist policy for the sake of £11m is quite staggering”.

York became a UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts in 2014, a designation that has helped to attract national and international attention as the city looks in a new economic direction to attract the jobs of the future. Media Arts events and festivals are just one aspect of what will help to generate interest in inward investment and jobs in the future, something that World Heritage status would also contribute to the city, says Coun. Looker:

“The forthcoming cultural strategy has prioritised this objective and I hope it will gain cross party consensus when it comes before Executive in January.  What happens beyond that could, unfortunately, be out of York’s hands”.

Although the Prime Minister is believed to be opposed to withdrawal, a potentially successful vote of no confidence in her in the coming days could make that stance inconsequential.

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