Canterbury councilor admits not knowing the city’s UNESCO World Heritage status


A Canterbury city councilor admitted he was unaware that the city he represents holds Unesco World Heritage status.

Cllr Matthew Jones-Roberts, who sits on a committee focused on safeguarding the neighborhood’s assets, says he’s just learned of the city’s protected status – a distinction she has held since 1988.

Canterbury’s World Heritage status is there for anyone entering the city from New Dover Road

The Unesco title has been a hot topic in recent months following the decision to remove Liverpool from their place on the exclusive list.

At last week’s regeneration committee, Canterbury councilors discussed how to further protect the city’s status and not follow in the footsteps of those on Merseyside.

Speaking at the end of a 40-minute debate and to the gasps of his colleagues, Cllr Jones-Roberts admitted he was unfamiliar with the World Heritage title – although it appears on signs welcoming tourists in the city.

“What an honor to participate in this conversation,” said the representative for Chartham and Stone Street.

“The fact that we are talking about something as massive as the Unesco statute is ‘wow’.

Councilor Matthew Jones-Roberts
Councilor Matthew Jones-Roberts

“I didn’t expect to be in a privileged position to talk about it.

“If I’m really honest, I didn’t even know it was a Unesco site until now.

“Because the importance to me is the fantastic story we have here and that’s what attracted me to Canterbury.

“And once that status is brought up, it’s a bonus – a huge bonus which is fantastic and something that is recognized internationally.

“I don’t think I’m the only person who doesn’t know the status and know the importance.”

The cloisters of Canterbury Cathedral are internationally recognized
The cloisters of Canterbury Cathedral are internationally recognized

Cllr Jones-Roberts’ admission sparked dismay from some members of Canterbury’s Remembering As It Was Facebook page, who said they were “appalled” to learn of her lack of insight.

One commentator said: “As a city councilor you would think they would at least do their homework.”

At the meeting, councilors voted unanimously to put the city’s World Heritage status on the authority’s “at risk” register.

The authority suggests that the loss of Unesco status will cause “damage to the reputation” of the city and have a negative impact on investment and funding offers.

Cllr Connie Nolan (Lab) said it was “absolutely blatant” that the board failed to protect her protected title. She called for greater urgency in dealing with the installation of air conditioning units in the medical block at Christ Church University in Canterbury, which obstructed an iconic view of the cathedral.

Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury

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