A London Government department is to compile a report on the Giant's Causeway visitor centre row for world heritage body UNESCO, the Belfast Telegraph has learned.
The Whitehall-based Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has confirmed that it is becoming officially involved in the controversy over Northern Ireland's top tourist attraction.
DCMS has chief responsibility in the UK government for UNESCO world heritage sites like the Causeway.
UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) has now asked it for a formal account of the visitor centre controversy.
DoE Minister Arlene Foster announced last month that she was "of a mind" to grant north coast developer Seymour Sweeney approval for a commercial centre close to the Causeway entrance.
Mrs Foster's DUP ministerial colleague, Nigel Dodds, responded by shelving rival plans for a new publicly-owned centre.
A DCMS spokesperson has spelt out the nature of its involvement to this newspaper.
He explained that, in line with normal procedures, the London department will be reporting to UNESCO as the "UK State Party" on the visitor centre proposals.
Northern Ireland's Department of the Environment had advised UNESCO that this would be the case, the spokesman added.
"Separately, in response to representations made direct to UNESCO, the UK State party has been asked by UNESCO formally to report," he added.
UNESCO itself issued key recommendations on the Causeway visitor centre issue in 2003.
Drawn up after a mission team visited the area, its report said a new centre should be built in the "footprint" of the facility destroyed by fire in 2000.
UNESCO said this should involve no "extension in size and height" to the previous premises and " no additional development" should be permitted in the vicinity.
Mr Sweeney's private sector proposals involve a new, larger visitor centre on an alternative site owned by him.
Senior UNESCO official Mechtild Rossler told the Belfast Telegraph last month: "We were absolutely clear that any new visitor centre must be built in the footprint of the centre that was burnt down.
"That is my position and I am not moving one millimetre from that."
A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman confirmed that this position has also been conveyed to London Government officials.
"UNESCO has made clear that its position remains as stated in the report which followed the 2003 mission," he said.
The Causeway is Northern Ireland's only UNESCO world heritage site.