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Derby could lose Unesco title over plans to erect apartment block opposite historic silk mills

Derby could lose its Unesco title over plans to erect a 17-storey apartment block opposite historic silk mills as it may threaten their ‘global significance’

  • Derby could lose its UNESCO heritage status due to apartment block plans 
  • 17-story block of apartments planned to be built opposite Derwent Valley Mills
  • The mills won heritage statues in 2001 as home to world’s first ‘modern’ factories


Derby could be next to lose its UNESCO heritage status amid plans to erect a 17-storey apartment block opposite an historic silk mill.

Culture experts at the Paris-based organisation are concerned about Derbyshire’s Derwent Valley Mills after a council approved plans for the city’s tallest building.

Just two months ago, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation stripped Liverpool of its World Heritage Site status in July for over-developing its historic Victorian docks.

Derwent Valley Mills, which stretches 15 miles along the River Derwent, won world heritage status in 2001 as it is home to the world’s first ‘modern’ factories.

Derby could be next to lose its UNESCO heritage status amid plans to erect a 17-storey apartment block opposite an historic silk mill

Pioneered by 18th century inventor Sir Richard Arkwright, the mills offer ‘fascinating insights into life at the time of the Industrial Revolution.’

UNESCO has raised concerns about two recent planning decisions made within or close to the Derwent Valley Mills area.

One was the approval of 200 apartments to be built in Derby city centre directly across the river from Derby Silk Mill, where silk spinner John Lombe first introduced water-power to England in 1719. Derby City Council said it was uncertain what the second planning decision was.

The heritage site says it is now required to provide a conservation report for the site and hopes it will ‘address UNESCO’s concerns and assure them of the Derwent Valley Mills’ resilience as a site of global significance.’

The city’s chief planning officer Paul Clarke told a planning meeting last week that the council needed to take UNESCO’s concerns ‘very seriously.’

Explaining the situation, he said: ‘UNESCO has requested a Statement of Conservation report for the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

‘That means they are concerned about how we and our neighbours that also form the world heritage site are dealing with planning applications in the world heritage site.

He added: You may recall recently that Liverpool had its world heritage status removed by UNESCO and there has been discussion that Stonehenge may have its world heritage status removed.

Culture experts at the Paris-based organisation are concerned about Derbyshire’s Derwent Valley Mills after a council approved plans for the city’s tallest building. Pictured: Stock image of Derby

Culture experts at the Paris-based organisation are concerned about Derbyshire’s Derwent Valley Mills after a council approved plans for the city’s tallest building. Pictured: Stock image of Derby

‘UNESCO is throwing a harsher spotlight, I think, on the UK’s 31 listed sites and there is greater scrutiny from that agency. We need to take this very seriously.’

Historic England objected to the proposed development on heritage grounds.

A spokesperson said: ‘The height, scale and mass of the proposed building would be very harmful to the heritage affected, including Nottingham Road conservation area, and loom over key historic spaces and buildings. 

‘In addition, it would erode the vital contribution that the cathedral, Cathedral Green and the World Heritage Site (including the Silk Mill) make to Derby’s identity and attractiveness as a place.’

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