The Management Plan for the World Heritage Site has been updated in 2020. It has as the first of its seven aims to: “protect and conserve the Outstanding Universal Value of the DVMWHS to ensure its transmission to future generations. aim 1 is paramount and all other aims must not conflict with it.”
When inscription to the World Heritage List was first given to the Derwent Valley Mills in 2001, it was initially agreed that those planning authorities within the Partnership (Amber Valley Borough Council, Derby City Council, Derbyshire Dales District Council, Erewash Borough Council and Derbyshire County Council) would evaluate and decide on World Heritage Site planning issues within their own areas, without the need for repetition of the issues in a response from the World Heritage Site Partnership.
This system was reviewed in 2008, and it was decided that whilst the planning authorities were able to deal with all and any issues concerning Conservation Areas, Listed Buildings and general planning issues, the one area where a more defined and weightier response was needed concerned the impact of development on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.
The Partnership therefore established a Service Level Agreement with Derbyshire County Council’s Conservation and Design Section, which accordingly advises on all planning matters, including applications within the World Heritage Site or its Buffer Zone which may impact on its OUV.
This was agreed on the understanding that the Partnership would comment on an application or strategy only in terms of its impact – whether positive or negative – on OUV. All other planning issues to be considered would be dealt with by the planning authority and its own conservation and planning officers.
All responses issued since the Service Level Agreement came into force have adhered to this criteria.
Download this pdf: The DVM Partnership’s role in the planning process.
Outstanding Universal Value and Attributes
The identified Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of a World Heritage Site defines the thinking at the time of inscription and is non-negotiable. Primarily, it relates to properties, not people, nor ideas.
The Statement of Outstanding Universal Value is essential for monitoring; periodic reporting; danger listing; and (worst case scenario) deletion from the World Heritage List. It offers the potential for reactive monitoring. A key measurement is the impact on the defined attributes of OUV.
An important contributor to understanding OUV is its list of established Attributes which are structures and buildings that help us to define the Site’s value to the global community. These are important as a group, but must be treated as a whole.
The setting of a World Heritage Site can contribute to the list of Attributes. This is certainly the case with the Derwent Valley Mills. One of the reasons UNESCO inscribed the Derwent Valley Mills on the World Heritage List was because the mills and their associated settlements remain in a largely rural landscape – as they were in Georgian and Victorian times. Because of this they provide a sense of how remarkable it must have been for rural England to have these revolutionary new operations – factories – springing up in an agricultural landscape. This landscape is, remarkably, still discernible within the valley today, because cotton spinning moved, early on, to Lancashire so the pioneer Derwent Valley Mills and their communities became arrested in time, largely unaltered by the changing dynamics of further industrialisation and urbanisation.
It is therefore of vital importance that the setting of the Derwent Valley Mills remains rural. This rural setting could be described as the most ‘At Risk’ of all the World Heritage Site’s Attributes, and needing careful monitoring to ensure it is not overwhelmed or significantly eroded by development. The respective local planning authorities have adopted policies to ensure this happens, supported by the World Heritage Partnership commenting through the prism of impacts on OUV.
The Buffer Zone
In order to be as clear as possible as to what constitutes the Site’s immediate setting a buffer zone has been defined. This has been endorsed by UNESCO.
The buffer zone extends from skyline to skyline at the northernmost part of the Site, at Matlock Bath and Cromford. As the Valley’s steep sides flatten out towards the south the extent of the buffer zone is reduced. The eastern part of the town of Belper is included because it sits on rising ground.
The Site’s wider setting cannot be so readily zoned and here potential impacts of exceptionally tall structures, such as wind turbines, are considered on a case by case basis.
These two maps show the World Heritage Site and Buffer Zone boundaries:
WHS and Buffer Zone map north
WHS and Buffer Zone map south