1.         Belfries of Belgium and France (Belgium,France) (C 943bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1999

Criteria  (ii)(iv)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/943/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/943/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions


Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/943/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2007

The World Heritage Centre was informed by letter dated 12 October 2006 of the Association "Preserve Béthune Grand Place and its Belfry" and by the visit of representatives of this Association on 20 November 2006 to the World Heritage Centre, of the construction project for a covered market for fresh market products at the foot of the Béthune Belfry (Department of the Pas-de-Calais, France). It would be located in the buffer zone of the Béthune Grand Place property.

The Béthune Belfry is one of 23 belfries of France which were inscribed in 2005 as a transboundary extension of the Belfries of Flanders and Wallonia, which were inscribed in 1999.

According to information received by the Association and to that found on the official Internet address of the City of Béthune, an international competition for the project was launched at the beginning of 2005 (the ICOMOS evaluation mission took place in August 2004), and on 25 July 2005 the jury selected a project by a French architect. It further appears that the covered market would extend over 1100 m2 (22 stallholders). It would measure 39 metres in length and 30 metres wide. The height of the project would be 7 metres. The nearest entrance to the covered market would be approximately 3 metres from the Belfry. The materials used would be steel, aluminium and glass.

The letter and annexed documents received by the Association were transmitted on 20 November 2006 to the State Party for comment. A reminder letter was sent to the State Party on 12 January 2007. Furthermore, the World Heritage Centre was informed by the same Association (letter dated 16 January 2007) that the Mayor of Béthune was going to grant the building permit end-January-beginning February 2007.

To date, the World Heritage Centre has only received comments (23 January 2007) from an official of the Ministry of Culture indicating that « the Ministry of Culture supports the construction project for a covered market at the foot of the Béthune Belfry », putting forward the following two arguments : « 1. from the historical aspect, there is no contradiction in having a covered market beside a belfry as it is a perfectly normal location (see Ypres [West Flanders] with its belfry and its covered markets, idem elsewhere). 2. The project is extremely modern so as not to create a ridiculous pasticcio alongside this wonderful belfry. Moreover, the project is very modest (and intended as such)».

The Ministry further informed that this project was "approved" by their services (General Inspection for Historic Monuments, Departmental Service of Architecture and Regional Heritage and Conservation). However, it would still be possible to intervene to discuss the project at the time of application for a building permit (the State – Departmental Service of Architecture and Heritage - is required to validate the conformity of the project).

The World Heritage Centre regrets that the French State Party has to date provided no official information (written and with graphics) regarding this project, in conformity with paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, demonstrating that this project does not affect the outstanding universal value for which the Belfry was inscribed on the World Heritage List, as well as its visual integrity.

It further appears that an underground parking area located under the Béthune Grand Place (buffer zone) has also been constructed without the World Heritage Centre being informed. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM


Decision Adopted: 31 COM 7B.108

The World Heritage Committee,

1.       Having examined Document WHC-07/31.COM/7B,

2.       Recalling the provisions set out in paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, as well as those of the Vienna Memorandum on « World Heritage and Contemporary Architecture – Management of the Historic Urban Landscape » (2005),

3.       Expresses its concern with regard to the construction project for a covered market at the foot of the World Heritage property of the Béthune Belfry (France) and located in the buffer zone of the property;

4.       Requests the French State Party to improve the existing legislation in order to guarantee satisfactory legal protection and authorization procedures adapted to the status of the World Heritage property;

5.       Also requests the French State Party to provide as soon as possible but at the latest by 1 February 2008, detailed information demonstrating that this project does not affect the Outstanding Universal Value, as well as the visual integrity, of the Belfry and its surroundings (visual impact evaluation) before any irreversible decision is taken, for examination by the Committee at its 32nd session in 2008.