World Heritage chiefs raise concern over Derbyshire’s famous Derwent Valley Mills

A culture body which recently stripped Liverpool of its World Heritage Site status has now expressed concerns about Derbyshire’s famous Derwent Valley Mills.

Friday, 17th September 2021, 8:59 am
Updated Friday, 17th September 2021, 9:32 am

And it could be because the city has approved plans for its tallest building, a 17-storey apartment block.

A statement reveals the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Partnership has been tasked to file a special State of Conservation report to the Government for the first time in its history following concerns about the site raised by UNESCO.

UNESCO – which stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation – is a body which declares where World Heritage Sites are across the globe and their criteria. Its headquarters is in Paris.

Cromford Mills form part of the world heritage site

There are just over 30 World Heritage Sites in the UK, with Derbyshire’s Derwent Valley Mills being one – which is said to be a very proud honour for the county.

The Derwent Valley Mills area runs 15 miles from Matlock Bath and Cromford in the north, through Belper, Milford and Darley Abbey into the City of Derby. It was given world heritage status 20 years ago.

The Derwent Valley Mills has world heritage status because the area once powered the world’s first modern factories and offers “fascinating insights into life at the time of the Industrial Revolution”. Attractions include Cromford, Belper and Darley Abbey and the River Derwent which flows through.

The management of the site, known as the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Partnership, is made up of a number of authorities in Derbyshire.

The Partnership says UNESCO has raised concerns about two planning decisions made within or close to the Derwent Valley Mills area in recent times. One was the approval of 200 apartments to be built on land off Phoenix Street in Derby which is earmarked to be the city’s tallest building, featuring 17 storeys.

Derby City Council said it was uncertain what the second planning decision was but believed it could have been in the Amber Valley area.

News of the UNESCO concerns was revealed at Derby City Council’s Planning Committee meeting – just weeks after UNESCO removed Liverpool’s world heritage status.

It is currently unclear whether or not UNESCO could do the same with Derwent Valley Mills but the Partnership must file a special report following its concerns. The report will then be considered at UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee next year.

Interestingly, the Partnership says the conservation report and its current management plan for the site will “hopefully address UNESCO’s concerns and assure them of the Derwent Valley Mills’ resilience as a site of global significance”.

The use of the word “assure” could suggest that UNESCO may have a decision to make if it is not satisfied with the report/management plan.

UNESCO has been approached for comment, but a spokesperson said it would be unable to comment until the end of Friday.

Derby City Council’s chief planning officer Paul Clarke told last week’s planning meeting that the council/Partnership needed to take UNESCO’s concerns “very seriously”.

A statement from the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Partnership added: “The State of Conservation report details and explains processes relating to planning issues highlighted by UNESCO’s World Heritage centre as being of concern.

“It also details what remedial work and process changes are planned to ensure these issues are not repeated.”