North West Wales

Gwynedd slate industry eyes World Heritage status

The slate industry of north Wales is hoping to be granted highly-prized World Heritage status.

A bid has been submitted to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in the first step of a process that could take years.

Supporters believe the industry has shaped the social, political, economic and cultural landscape of Wales.

World Heritage Sites are chosen for their outstanding universal value to culture, history or science.

Supporters of the bid believe heritage status would be a huge economic boost to the region through tourism.

Dr Dafydd Roberts, keeper of the National Slate Museum, in Llanberis, said the heritage of the slate industry could be seen in the quarries, the towns, the buildings, the language and the culture of people in Gwynedd.

He said: "The slate industry has shaped communities - they had and still do have their own very special and unique culture.

"These areas were and still are bastions of the Welsh language and culture and so towns like Bethesda, Blaenau Ffestiniog and Llanberis have developed a unique character that is still there, I would argue."

Wales currently has three World Heritage Sites: the castles and town walls of King Edward, in Gwynedd, the Blaenavon industrial landscape, in Blaenau Gwent, and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal, in Wrexham.

Make case

Dr Roberts said it was going to be a challenge to make the case for heritage status for an industry that was still operating, and with quarries that are still being worked.

However, he said: "Many parts of working quarries are abandoned and derelict. Not every part is evolving and changing."

Archeologist and historian Dr David Gwyn said the slate industry definitely had "outstanding and universal value".

He said: "Wherever you go across the world you will see pieces of Welsh slate on roofs. It doesn't matter whether you are in Melbourne or New York. It is an important industry."

But he warned that the application was a long process.

He said: "This is only a bid to make a bid in the future. It maybe we won't get through the first stage."

Entire process

The entire process can take between five and 10 years. If the bid is approved by the DCMS it will be entered onto what is called a "tentative list".

From there the bid must move onto a nomination list where it will be assessed by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

If successful, the application is then judged by the World Heritage Committee, which meets once a year to decide which sites will be inscribed on the World Heritage List.

Councillor Dewi Lewis said a successful bid would mean an exciting opportunitiy to preserve the areas heriage, culture and language on a global stage.

"We can show the world how good the heritage of the slate industry is in Gwynedd."

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