Cornish mines offered as wonder of the world

THE INDUSTRIAL landscape of Wales, Cornish tin mines and the Forth rail bridge in Scotland are being proposed as modern-day wonders of the world.

Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, yesterday announced 32 recommendations to join the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal on the United Nations list of world heritage sites.

Consultation is now invited on whether the proposals, culled from an initial list of 120, represent the best of Britain's cultural and natural heritage.

The move is intended to make amends for the years since Margaret Thatcher pulled Britain out of Unesco, the United Nations cultural organisation. Unesco set up the world heritage site programme in 1972 and currently has 552 listed, but only 17 from Britain, which rejoined the organisation last year.

They include Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, Westminster Abbey and the Giant's Causeway in Ireland. Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire is the sole representative of Britain's industrial heritage.

But the new nominations are intended to answer recent concern from Unesco about the preponderance of cultural sites over natural ones and the over- representation of palaces, cathedrals and historic towns in Western Europe.

Mr Smith said he wanted to make sure they had the selection right and to check whether there were any omissions.

He added: "I want to see our outstanding sites achieve the international recognition they deserve, and I want to ensure that they are cared for and presented to people in the best way possible."

Britain's overseas territories and Crown dependencies have not been forgotten, with nominations for the Fountain Cavern in Anguilla, West Indies, and the Gibraltar Fortress.

A spokesman for English Heritage, which chaired the committee compiling the list of proposals from England, raised the recognition of Britain's industrial heritage - including areas of Liverpool and the Ancoats district of Manchester, once the home of the cotton industry and where the German socialist Engels studied poverty.

These illustrated "the major contribution Britain's outstanding archaeology, global influence and cultural landscapes make to the world's heritage".