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Canterbury councillor admits to not knowing of city's Unesco World Heritage status

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A Canterbury councillor has admitted he did not know the city he represents holds Unesco World Heritage status.

Cllr Matthew Jones-Roberts, who sits on a committee focused on safeguarding the district’s assets, says he has just learned about the city’s protected standing - an accolade it has held since 1988.

Canterbury's World Heritage status is there for all to see for those entering the city from New Dover Road
Canterbury's World Heritage status is there for all to see for those entering the city from New Dover Road

The Unesco title has been a hot topic in recent months following the decision to strip Liverpool of its place on the exclusive list.

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

Speaking at the end of a 40-minute debate and to gasps from fellow members, Cllr Jones-Roberts admitted he did not know of the World Heritage title - despite it being on signs welcoming tourists to the city.

“What an honour it is to be in this conversation,”the Chartham and Stone Street representative said.

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

Cllr Matthew Jones-Roberts
Cllr Matthew Jones-Roberts

“I didn’t expect to be in the privileged position of talking about this.

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

“Because the importance to me is the fantastic history we have here and that was the thing that attracted me to Canterbury.

“And once that status is talked about, it’s a bonus - a huge bonus which is fantastic and something which is internationally recognised.

“I don’t think I’m the only person that didn’t know about the status and know about the importance.”

Canterbury Cathedral's cloisters are internationally recognised
Canterbury Cathedral's cloisters are internationally recognised

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

One commenter said: “As a city councillor you’d think they’d at least do their homework on it.”

At the meeting, councillors voted unanimously to put the city’s World Heritage status on the authority’s ‘at-risk’ register.

The authority suggests losing the Unesco standing will cause “reputational harm” to the city and impact negatively on investment and funding bids.

Cllr Connie Nolan (Lab) said it was “absolutely blatant” the council has not been safeguarding its protected title. She called for greater urgency in dealing with the installation of air conditioning units on the medical block at Canterbury Christ Church University which has obstructed an iconic view of the Cathedral.

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