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Wales’ slate landscape wins World Heritage status

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An area famed for its slate industry has joined Egypt’s Pyramids, India’s Taj Mahal and the Grand Canyon to become a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The slate landscape of north-west Wales has become the UK’s 32nd site on the prestigious list after the World Heritage Committee approved the UK bid.

They have awarded more than 30 new inscriptions to cultural and natural bids worldwide already this week.

It comes after Liverpool lost its World Heritage status earlier in July when the Unesco committee meeting in China ruled development threatened the value of its waterfront.

Following the decision, Wales bid leader Dafydd Wigley addressed the committee by video link from the National Slate Museum in Caernarfon.

He said: “Here in Gwynedd we have an outstanding example of a complete landscape and this inscription is a source of great pride for our communities in north Wales and it’s a celebration of our contribution to the world.

“We look forward to being part of the wider community of World Heritage Sites and this inscription has recognised our global contribution.”

The slate landscapes of Snowdonia in the county of Gwynedd are said to have “roofed the 19th Century world” as slate from its quarries was exported around the globe.

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Unesco’s World Heritage Committee was looking for a site of “outstanding universal value” which should be a “unique landmark” and which has a “cultural, historical or physical significance”.

Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Today’s announcement recognises the significant contribution this part of North Wales has made to the cultural and industrial heritage not only of Wales, but of the wider world. Welsh slate can be found all over the world.

“The quarrying and mining of slate has left a unique legacy in Gwynedd, which the communities are rightly proud of. This worldwide recognition today by Unesco will help preserve that legacy and history in those communities for generations to come and help them with future regeneration.”

The UK government’s Heritage Minister Caroline Dinenage said: “Unesco World Heritage Status is a huge achievement and testament to the importance this region played in the industrial revolution and Wales’ slate mining heritage.

“I welcome the prospect of increased investment, jobs and a better understanding of this stunning part of the UK.”

Plaid Cymu’s culture spokeswoman Heledd Fychan called the decision fantastic news, adding: “Achieving this prestigious status is a boost – a boost to pride in our Welsh heritage and a boost to Wales’ place on the international stage.

“This is about preserving and protecting our heritage so that it plays a role in Wales’ future.”

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Dr David Gwyn, an archaeologist and heritage consultant who has worked on the bid for 12 years, said he was “an extremely happy man”.

“We’ve known for decades that the slate landscapes of north Wales are special, but to have it recognised by an international committee was a humbling moment.

“These are outstanding and beautiful landscapes with meaning for the whole of humanity.

“It says a great deal about our powerful history and our present day communities. “

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Wales already had three World Heritage sites and one of those, like the slate landscape, is also in the north west.

The castles and town walls in Gwynedd built by King Edward I were among the first sites in the UK to join the list when it was inscribed in 1986 alongside Stonehenge, Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire and Durham Castle and cathedral.

Unesco said the four castles of Beaumaris, Conwy, Caernarfon, Harlech and the attendant fortified towns at Conwy and Caernarfon “are the finest examples of late 13th Century and early 14th Century military architecture in Europe”.

Wales’ other Unesco sites are the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – the highest canal aqueduct in the world – which spans the River Dee in Wrexham county and Blaenavon industrial landscape in Torfaen.

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