Bath Uni academic takes over as chair of advisory board overseeing city’s World Heritage status

May 8, 2024

The partnership panel that helps maintain and protect Bath’s UNESCO World Heritage status has a new chair.

University of Bath academic Prof Marion Harney, who was appointed chair of the City of Bath UNESCO World Heritage Site Advisory Board and Enhancement Fund, said she would use her expertise in building and landscape conservation to ensure the status is preserved for future generations. 

Bath is exceptional in having two UNESCO inscriptions. In 1987 it was inscribed for its Hot Springs, Roman archaeology, Georgian buildings and natural landscape setting.

In 2021 a second inscription was received as one of the Great Spa Towns of Europe – fashionable spa towns laid out around natural springs which are used for health and wellbeing.

Bath is also unusual in that the entire city has World Heritage status – the only city in the UK to have this – meaning it has to balance a being a modern, thriving urban area with nearly 100,000 inhabitants with its UNESCO inscription.

The advisory board, which usually meets three times a year, oversees the production and implementation of Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) Council’s management plan for its UNESCO inscription.

The World Heritage Site Enhancement Fund, which was established in 2009 as a partnership between B&NES, Bath Preservation Trust and the World Heritage Site Advisory Board, sources, funds and manages local cityscape improvement schemes. 

It has organised or participated in 50 schemes with a value of more than £300,000 and has helped remove four structures from the council’s Building at Risk register.

Prof Harney has a number of roles at the University of Bath, including Professor of Building and Landscape Conservation and associate dean Education, Faculty of Engineering and Design.

She is also visiting professor/academic consultant, Conservation of Parks, Gardens and Landscapes at the University of Westminster.

She has been a member of Bath World Heritage Site Advisory Group since 2007 and shares responsibility for overseeing the development, production and implementation of the World Heritage Site management plan. 

She takes over from Prof Barry Gilbertson, who had chaired the board since 2017 and stood down earlier this year from the voluntary role due to a family relocation to Surrey.  

Prof Harney said: “I am absolutely delighted to be appointed to this prestigious role and I am looking forward to working with the great team of people, both officers and specialist volunteers who make-up the World Heritage Site Advisory Board.

“My academic research and writing have always been in building and landscape heritage and their conservation and it will be an honour and a pleasure to use my expertise to ensure that the Outstanding Universal Values of this doubly inscribed site are protected and enhanced for the benefit of future generations.”

B&NES leader Cllr Kevin Guy added: “The UNESCO World Heritage status is the highest possible heritage accolade that the city can achieve and I want to welcome Prof Harney to the board to continue our successful community partnership-working for the benefit of our unique city, its flourishing economy and our communities.”   

Pictured below: Marion Harney, with Bath & North East Somerset Council leader Cllr Kevin Guy, centre, and former City of Bath UNESCO World Heritage Site Advisory Board and Enhancement Fund chair Prof Barry Gilbertson


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