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A new model of sustainable tourism

We are thrilled to announce a new project to secure UNESCO designation for the Kent Downs AONB and all the social, economic and environmental benefits this would bring.

This is an exciting opportunity to work with partners and communities across Kent to secure a globally-recognised UNESCO designation for the AONB, including Kent’s Heritage Coast from Dover to Folkestone. The project will also deliver new sustainable tourism initiatives, as well as a Landscape Festival in 2022. Ultimately, UNESCO Sites Across the Channel seeks to celebrate and protect our natural and cultural assets whilst contributing to the sustainable development of the local economy.

This new project runs from 2021-2023 and is funded by the EU Interreg Channel programme of the European Regional Development Fund.

UNESCO Project Logo - with ERDF-1_EN
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Benefits for the Kent Downs

Together the 'UNESCO Sites of the Channel (USAC)' project partners will develop:

1. New UNESCO sites across the Channel
At the end of the project, new UNESCO Biosphere Reserves and Geoparks will emerge through the collective work carried out by project partners and territories. For Kent, this could mean the whole of the Kent Downs AONB becomes a Global Geopark or the pursuit of Biosphere Reserve status and World Heritage Site Status for the Strait of Dover.

2. Support for tourism professionals to discover local heritage
A network of local Ambassadors who share sustainable tourism values and practices based around the amazing natural and cultural resources of the Kent Downs..

3. New sustainable tourism experiences for all
New sustainable tourism experiences for residents and visitors while carefully managing biodiversity and protecting the landscape. Experiences will be nature-based tourism and of benefit to local communities and economies, for example nature hikes, geocaching, artistic festivals, exhibitions, farm stays.

Who is involved in the project?

The Kent Downs AONB Unit is one of 5 project partners in France and England. The Armorique Regional Nature Park is the project leader working alongside the following partners:

- Caps et Marais d'Opale Regional Nature Park
- Natural Area Conservatory of Hauts-de-France
- Isle of Wight AONB
- Kent Downs AONB

Local supporters and partners include:
- Visit Kent
- Creative Folkestone
- Kent Wildlife Trust
- National Trust London and South East
- White Cliffs Countryside Partnership

UNESCO Infographic 2

What are UNESCO sites?

There are 32 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the UK including some of our most treasured landscapes and landmarks such as Canterbury Cathedral, Stonehenge and the Lake District.

There are three different types of UNESCO designation:

1. World Heritage Sites – these are sites with cultural and / or natural heritage of unique, outstanding value to humanity. Examples include Canterbury Cathedral, Stonehenge, and the Pyramids of Giza.

2. Global Geoparks – Geoparks are areas of outstanding geological heritage that promote a bottom-up model of sustainable development. Geoparks undertake geological conservation and use geology as the basis for celebrating all forms of heritage. Some of the UK’s Geoparks are located in the Black Country, the English Riviera, and the Shetland Islands.

3. Biosphere Reserves – as ‘learning places for sustainable development’, Biosphere Reserves seek solutions that combine the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. The UK has 14 Biosphere Reserves, including Biosffer Dyfi in Wales, Brighton & Lewes Downs, and the Isle of Wight.

New Ways to EXPERIENCE Kent

New EXPERIENCE Project in the Kent Downs AONB EXPERIENCE is a €23.3 million project co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (€16.1 million ERDF) through Interreg VA France (Channel) England Programme 2014-2020 Interreg VA France (Channel) England Programme 2014-2020. It aims to bring 20m visitors to project partner regions in the UK and France including […]

The “UNESCO Sites of the Channel” (USAC) project receives financial support from the European Interreg France (Channel) England Program:

Total budget | € 1,211,240.00
Contribution of the European Union (69%) | € 835,755.59

The Interreg - France (Channel) England (FMA) Program
The European Interreg France (Channel) England Program was set up to promote the economic development of the south of the United Kingdom and the north-west of France by funding innovative projects of sustainable and economic interest. It focuses on a series of specific objectives, notably support for innovation, improving the attractiveness of the FMA zone and the development of low-carbon technologies.

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