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Anger at expansion of world heritage status

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A move to expand United Nations world heritage status to other parts of the island could hurt the town of St George, a former mayor warned yesterday.

Henry Hayward, who was mayor when the town and nearby forts won the coveted Unesco designation in 2000, said the honour would be diluted if it was shared with other sites.

Mr Hayward added: “The fact is that St George's needs every bit of assistance it can get.

“Hamilton, with Fort Hamilton, is a thriving city and the Government has poured millions of dollars into Dockyard developing the cruise ship docks.

“St George's has been left in the background, with the golf course closed and no hotel development until recently. This would be just one more thing that would make it less attractive to go to.”

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, said last October that he would petition Unesco to include military fortifications elsewhere in Bermuda in its World Heritage Site coverage.

Colonel Burch said: “The designation, while recognising ‘related fortifications', recognised only those fortifications in the parish of St George's.

“However, in this island country, all fortifications — from St George's to Somerset — are related.

“Together, these unparalleled groups of fortifications graphically illustrate English military engineering from the 17th to the 20th century.”

He added: “All such fortifications, especially the largest at the old Royal Naval Dockyard, are related to St George's and thus within the terms of the original designation of our World Heritage Site.”

Colonel Burch said any expansion would involve a “supplemental application” to Unesco.

He added: “This addition will help foster Bermuda's heritage tourism and underscore the cultural legacy and value of these built monuments to Bermuda and the world.”

But Mr Hayward said: “If this goes ahead, the Unesco designation would cover essentially the whole island. The significance of St George's would be diluted.”

Mr Hayward said it took around a year for St George's to earn world heritage status and that the historic St Peter's Church played a large role in Unesco's decision to award world heritage status.

He explained: “They said St Peter's Church was significant enough for Unesco. However, it was the town of St George's that applied for it.”

The designation by Unesco was designed to highlight areas of major cultural or natural importance.

Only 1,073 places around the world have World Heritage Site status.

Mr Hayward said: “I think the designation has been positive for St George's.

“I wouldn't say it had been a boon necessarily, but it added credibility to the historic sites.

“Certainly with St Peter's, which dates back to 1612, we are trying to market that as a significant spot.”

Edward Harris, the former executive director of the National Museum of Bermuda, has backed the bid to include more parts of the island in the Unesco designation.

Dr Harris said Unesco had said consideration should be given to the addition of more fortifications.

He added: “The additions in no way would dilute the value of the town of St George and the forts in St George's Parish.

“They could only enhance the World Heritage Site by reason of the importance of the additional sites and the power of the organisations that run them.

“It has been 18 years since Unesco's recommendation to expand the Bermuda sites was embedded in the World Heritage Site inscription.

“Due to the improvements of the proposed additional sites, the Government recognises it is now time to act and has been encouraged to do so by heritage authorities in London.”

Dr Harris said Government had shown it recognised the value of cultural tourism.

He added: “From end to end, Bermudians could claim the island as world heritage, which is what it is.

“The addition of those forts would also bring the additional strength of the Corporation of Hamilton and the National Museum in support of Bermuda's World Heritage Site.”

Kenneth Bascome, a former St George's mayor and MP, also said he had no objection to the proposal.

He added: “I think some members of the community will have a problem, but I take the view the whole island is our home.”

Fort Hamilton, built in 1870, was constructed in order to protect Hamilton Harbour, by forming a line of defence for the western Royal Naval Dockyard. It is now a scenic park, offering vista views of Hamilton, lush gardens growing within its' deserted moats and tunnels that go deep into the limestone bedrock of the fort (File photograph)
The Commissioner's House in Dockyard

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Published January 25, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated January 25, 2018 at 6:51 am)

Anger at expansion of world heritage status

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