Managing the site

Establishing a clear vision is an essential means of ensuring that a World Heritage Site can be effectively managed and protected, whilst also delivering benefits for its local communities. As part of this process, it is important that management partners and local communities understand what World Heritage listing might achieve, if everyone works towards those goals.

The creation of an agreed vision also allows for the development of a framework of longer-term aims. This, in turn informs the priorities for medium-term objectives, based on the analysis of key current issues. In the case of the Forth Bridge, the excellent state of the structure itself following Network Rail’s recent restoration programme allows more of a focus on wider benefits that World Heritage inscription might bring. A Management Plan was submitted to UNESCO as part of the nomination process.

Such plans help clearly set out the special qualities and values of the site, to establish a framework for decision making, and give information on threats and opportunities for each site in order that it can be managed in a sustainable manner.

Whilst inscription of the Forth Bridge will not itself impact on its operational function as an essential part of the UK’s mainline rail network, it is likely to have a significant effect upon the areas adjacent to each end of the bridge and potentially on the region, Scotland and the UK more generally. The bridge is already a tourist attraction in its own right and the publicity generated by inscription as a World Heritage Site has the potential to attract many more visitors and create challenges and opportunities for the adjacent communities in Fife, Edinburgh and the Lothians

The Management Plan has therefore been developed to support the future management needs of the Forth Bridge, to coordinate the interests of associated organisations, groups and individuals, and to maximise the benefits that might ensue from inscription whilst minimising any negative impacts that might also arise.

The Plan aspires to:

Manage {the site] in a sustainable manner, to conserve, enhance and present its Outstanding Universal Value locally, nationally and internationally, and to balance the needs of conservation, operation and access alongside the interests of the adjacent local communities, whilst also contributing more generally to sustainable economic growth. Consequently, it aims to engage with and deliver benefits to the local communities around the property; to attract visitors to the area; to develop opportunities for education and learning and adds value to the local and national economy.

The process of developing this Plan was led by the Forth Bridges Forum, which includes Network Rail as the owner of the property.

The preparation of the Management Plan was overseen by the World Heritage Nomination Steering Group (known as the ‘Steering Group’), a sub-group of the Forth Bridges Forum, and has also drawn on information gathered through a 12-week public consultation. As a consequence, the Management Plan has assimilated the views of local people who are likely to be most affected by inscription as well as baseline information on the current condition of the property, maintenance and monitoring programmes, together with anticipated pressures and threats that may emerge during the period of the plan.

The Plan sets out a prioritised list of agreed actions for a six year period, with lead partners for each. Actions in the first years are geared towards information-gathering and project development, as well as establishing the essential mechanisms for engagement by local communities. These will help to deliver improvements to local infrastructure and site interpretation. It will also look beyond the regional confines of the bridge and its setting, and consider wider benefits that may ensue, not least in education and skills and in the promotion of engineering particularly amongst the younger generations.