The Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Giza, the Acropolis and now – possibly – Merton Priory, after plans for the ruins to join the a list of the planet’s most important locations were revived.
The priory, which hosted the first English parliament in 1236 but has since been buried beneath roads and retail developments in Colliers Wood, has been named on a longlist of British candidates to be awarded the honour by the United Nations.
But with the bid to win World Heritage status for the remains of the historic priory unlikely to succeed, the trust charged with protecting them has called for more urgent conservation action.
Architect Marcus Beale, chairman of the Merton Priory Trust, welcomed the publicity the bid brought – but said a more realistic goal was to ensure land owners Axa Insurance fulfilled its promised to hand over a key part of the site and £300,000 for vital renovation work to Merton Council, a move that has been stalled by legal arguments.
Mr Beale said: “It’s tragic what’s happened to that site over the 20th century – it’s a really important part of our history.”
The possibility of bidding for heritage status for the site was raised in the council chamber two months ago, but a Conservative motion to launch a bid was voted down by Labour, which said the council did not have the cash to support it.
A Government spokesman said bids without local authority backing were unlikely to succeed.
However, another group or individual has since put the priory forward for consideration – although the trust said it did not know who it was.
A final shortlist of British entries, which will cut the list from 38 to less than 10, will be published in the new year.
Current World Heritage Sites include the Acropolis and the Statue of Liberty.
Other British bidders announced last week included the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, the city of York and the buildings of Scottish designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh.