Welsh slate landscape becomes Unesco world heritage site

A 2019 photo shows the FIA World Rally Championship being held in the slate landscape of Penmachno, north Wales.
A 2019 photo shows the FIA World Rally Championship being held in the slate landscape of Penmachno, north Wales.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - The UN's cultural agency Unesco on Wednesday (July 28) added a Welsh slate mining landscape to its list of world heritage sites, making it the 32nd location in Britain to be awarded the status.

The Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales in the county of Gwynedd was made a Unesco World Heritage Site at the remotely-held 44th session of the World Heritage Committee.

The designation comes one week after the world heritage body stripped the city of Liverpool's waterfront of the accolade to the dismay of local and national politicians.

"The quarrying and mining of slate has left a unique legacy in Gwynedd which the communities are rightly proud of," said Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford.

"This recognition by Unesco will help preserve that legacy and history in those communities for generations to come and help them with future regeneration."

British heritage minister Caroline Dinenage called the decision "a huge achievement" and hoped it would create economic opportunities in the mostly rural region.

Unesco's heritage list features more than 1,100 sites, which must meet at least one of its 10 criteria and demonstrate "outstanding universal value" to be included.

Other heritage sites include India's Taj Mahal palace, the Grand Canyon National Park in the United States and Peru's Machu Picchu landscape and ruins.

Gwynedd's slate mining past has left quarries, steam railways, industrial buildings and water systems in a mountainous region that encompasses Snowdonia National Park.

The northwest Wales slate landscape is the fourth Welsh site to receive Unesco recognition alongside the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape in south Wales, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, plus four 13th-century castles and two town walls in Gwynedd.

Slate quarrying has been carried out in the area for more than 1,800 years, with the material used to roof public buildings, homes and factories.

North-west Wales became a centre of global slate production in the 19th century, and Wales provided about one-third of the world's roofing slate at the industry's peak.

Welsh slate was used to build landmarks including Westminster Hall in London's parliament building, Copenhagen City Hall in Denmark and Melbourne's Royal Exhibition Building.

Unesco also awarded a double listing to the city of Bath in south-west England, which is now one of 12 European spa towns designated by the UN body.

Liverpool's waterfront (above) was stripped of its Unesco status, to the dismay of local and national politicians. PHOTO: AFP

Last week, Liverpool became only the third place to lose its world heritage status after Unesco judged that development plans threatened its historic port.

Regional mayor Steve Rotheram said the decision was "a retrograde step" taken by officials "on the other side of the world".