Outstanding Universal Value

The Jurassic Coast is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a jewel in the crown of the world’s natural places. It is England’s only natural World Heritage Site, and was designated in 2001.

Every World Heritage Site has a statement of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) that describes the reasons why the designation has been applied.

A brief summary of the OUV statement for the Jurassic Coast is given here:

The Dorset and East Devon Coast has an outstanding combination of globally significant geological and geomorphological features.

Along 155 km of largely undeveloped coast the Site’s geology displays approximately 185 million years of the Earth’s history, including a number of internationally important fossil localities.

The Site also includes outstanding examples of coastal landforms and processes, and is renowned for its contribution to earth science investigations for over 300 years. This coast is considered to be one of the most significant earth science teaching and research sites in the world.

golden cap
Golden Cap as seen from the sea. © Steve Belasco - stevebelasco.net

Setting of the World Heritage Site

In addition to OUV, another key concept for the World Heritage Site is its ‘setting’. This recognises that the surrounding landscape is key to how people experience the Site itself.

For the Jurassic Coast, setting is described as:

The surrounding landscape and seascape, and concerns the quality of the cultural and sensory experience surrounding the exposed coasts and beaches.

Although features of the coast such as natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage are not included in the World Heritage designation, they are an important part of its setting and how visitors experience the Site. Furthermore, geology underpins many of these other features, meaning the Jurassic Coast can act as a unifying story for the broader heritage values of the Dorset and East Devon coastline.

Walking - Rebecca - Chapmans Pool
Rebecca with her dog Flint near Chapmans Pool in Purbeck.

About UNESCO World Heritage Sites

In 1972, the World Heritage programme was created by UNESCO to link together international conservation efforts to conserve and protect natural and cultural heritage of global importance.

To guide this work, an international treaty was written called the World Heritage Convention, which provides countries with a framework for how to identify and conserve sites of international importance.

Irrespective of the territory on which they are located, World Heritage Sites are places that belong to all peoples of the world; they are irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.

Outstanding Universal Value is the conceptual thread that connects all these places together regardless of where they are and what the heritage value is. For properties to demonstrate OUV, they should be exceptional or in other words, one of the most remarkable places on earth.

Orcombe Point and the Geoneedle, Exmouth, East Devon
Orcombe Point and the Geoneedle, Exmouth, East Devon. © Steve Belasco - stevebelasco.net

Selection Criteria

There are ten selection criteria which World Heritage Sites are measured against. Each country must support their nomination with documents that detail how their site will be managed and conserved, and an assertion for that site to be recognised as demonstrating Outstanding Universal Value.

Cultural sites are measured against six criteria and natural sites have four. In some cases, sites may exhibit both cultural and natural Outstanding Universal Value, and these are designated in a separate category as Mixed sites.

Each year the World Heritage Committee, who oversee the World Heritage Programme, meet to discuss new nominations, properties that are at risk and those sites that are experiencing degradation.

discover the jurassic coast
Eype Beach in West Dorset.

A Global Family

As of today, there are 1,092 World Heritage Sites in 167 state parties across the world, with the majority falling into the Cultural heritage sector.

The Jurassic Coast sits in a unique place within that global family, and is listed under Criteria VIII:

To be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features.

Worbarrow Bay and motor boat
Worbarrow Bay. © Steve Belasco - stevebelasco.net

Our Responsibility

The Jurassic Coast Trust has the responsibility to ensure that this extraordinary site is conserved and protected for everyone across the world.

Our role is to help local communities in particular to understand and value the significance of the geological heritage along this coastline.

It is our mission to protect this extraordinary legacy from the past; it is what we live with today and what we will pass onto future generations.

camp bestival 2017 fossils
Children at Camp Bestival 2017 exploring fossils with the Jurassic Coast Trust. © Eddy Pearce.