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  • The ambiguous legal status of the property inscribed on the World Heritage List within the national legal system

  • Local policy towards buildings perceived as being of « minor value »

  • A liberal approach to the transformation of urban typology

  • Economic development and constructions immediately adjacent to the property

  • The visual impact of major projects for industrial installations in the surrounding landscape.

The mission also noted that a 50m protection zone exists around the listed monuments. However, major transformation and demolition work is authorized in these zones. Moreover, buildings of importance in the urban fabric that contribute to its coherence have no heritage preservation status despite their essential role for the integrity of the property; some have even been demolished. It would appear that there is little understanding of how the property as a whole conveys Outstanding Universal Value. Instead, attention is focused on a number of specific buildings within the city. The redevelopment of some areas does not respect the overall coherence and distinctiveness of the city, and the mission noted the large-scale development of commercial and administrative areas in close proximity to the property that were in conflict with urban functions and fabric of the historic city, impacting negatively on the integrity of the property.

Although Brugge does not possess a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, the ICOMOS evaluation and the agreed upon justification of criteria, clearly indicate that Brugge’s value is associated with its outstanding architectural ensemble. This architectural ensemble reflects the entirety of its medieval fabric and its urban structure and how its historic fabric has evolved over the centuries, the Gothic style being an integral part of the identity of the city. Brugge is extraordinarily coherent and contained within its medieval walls. The general aspect of the city and the area it occupies are crucial to an understanding of how the medieval city has conserved intact its form and architectural details and the way in which the evolution of the city is linked to the Gothic style of the buildings. In Brugge no other style is reflected in its evolution, as opposed to many other cities. It is for this reason that its coherence is of crucial importance.

The mission deemed that there was a need to classify the property within the national legislative framework as an « urban landscape » to protect the coherence of the overall urban form. The mission also considered that the study of specific urban areas should be undertaken to define the urban typology and set out conditions for possible future development. The mission recommends that clearer and more effective links need to be fostered between the development interests of the city and the conservation needs of the Historic Centre of Brugge, by integrating the requirements of heritage conservation into regional planning documents. The mission further recommends that a visual impact study be undertaken for the important views from and towards the World Heritage property, taking into account the historic and principal perspectives and the results incorporated into urban planning documents to avoid a negative visual impact on the property.

The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS consider that the development of these two projects emphasizes the weakness in the planning and management of the World Heritage property that appears to be reactive rather than proactive, and hope that appropriate development within the framework of the approved constraints will be encouraged. They further consider that a better governance could help to reduce these tensions and that an improved management system, defined in an approved management plan, based on the approved Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, could greatly improve the protection of the historic centre. They also consider that it would be beneficial to establish an advisory panel of experts for the World Heritage property that may be consulted as regards important projects and provide advice on the suitability of projects at a very early stage.

State of conservation of World Heritage properties inscribed on the World Heritage List

WHC-10/34.COM/7B.Add, p. 138

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