As requested by the Committee at its 28th session (Suzhou, 2004), the State Party provided a report on Riga, submitted in January 2005, which provided update information on the implementation of the preservation and development plan as well as information on a construction project in Riga.
The Law "On Preservation and Protection of the Historic Centre of Riga" has been adopted in 29 May 2003 and entered into force on 3 February 2004. The Law states that the preservation of the Historic Centre of Riga is of priority importance in comparison to other city development interests.
The new Law confirms the precise area of the Historic Centre of Riga and its protection zone (buffer zone) borders; the procedures for regulations for the Historic Centre of Riga and its buffer zone which are determined by the Cabinet of Ministers; procedures that any new building, reconstruction or demolition that cause essential changes in cultural, historical environment is prohibited until the Preservation and Development Plan of the Historical Centre of Riga enters into force; the Preservation and Development Plan of the Historic Centre of Riga and its buffer zone is to be completed by 1 July 2004.
Due to the adopted Law on the Historic Centre of Riga, the Inspection has managed to modify a number of projects taking into consideration the cultural historical environment of Historic Centre of Riga.
In May 2004, Riga City Council City Development Department introduced the first draft of the Preservation and Development Plan of the Historic Centre of Riga. After analyzing the draft, the Inspection requested the authorities to make revisions. The second Draft was submitted in December 2004 and the Inspection could consider approving the plan for the territory of the Historic Centre of Riga but not the buffer zone. The Inspection has noted a number of provisions to be implemented before the plan can be adopted by the Riga City Council.
There have also been changes in the General Construction Regulations stating that, building permission for any construction in a State protected cultural monument or its buffer zone can be issued only after permission of the Inspection has been presented.
The high-rise building in the buffer zone “Saules akmens” has been constructed to the initial height of 26 storeys instead of 15 as stated in the approved detail plan. The constructor has met some of the demands raised, by expanding the public function of the building and surrounding environment thus giving city inhabitants and visitors extra possibilities to enjoy the panorama of the Historic City of Riga.
Another project subject to debate is the construction of the international commercial centre “Centrs” in the Historic Centre of Riga. The project was reviewed by ICOMOS and has been revised following discussions with the Inspection. An issue still to be considered is the preservation of the street between the two blocks as an open public space.
Upon the request of the Latvian authorities and the Riga City Council, cooperation under the France-UNESCO Convention has been initiated and a second mission was undertaken to Riga with French experts in the field of urban conservation and planning, and wood architecture from 12 to 16 April 2005. Cooperation with the France-UNESCO Convention will help the Latvian authorities and the Riga City Council in developing a town planning strategy as well as defining an overall vision for the property. As a follow up to the ongoing projects on wooden housing conservation, the Riga City Council is considering creating a “wooden heritage centre”. This project was also discussed with the Riga City Council during the France-UNESCO Convention mission.
The State Party is encouraged to finalize and implement the preservation and development plan for the Historic Centre of Riga, in close cooperation with the City authorities, and to ensure an overall vision for the property, including the town planning strategy and a comprehensive urban Management Plan. Concerted efforts for increased collaboration between the Riga City Council and the State Inspection for Heritage Preservation are vital in order to ensure the success of this process.
A positive result of the adoption of the law of the Preservation of Historic Centre of Riga is the declining number of negative impacts to the historic centre. This is also illustrated in diagrams contained in the report. According to the Inspection, there may still be projects designed before the adoption of the law that might be contradictory to the preservation of Historic Centre of Riga. The Inspection is well aware of this and will inform the World Heritage Committee on any such project.
The Inspection has listed a number of provisions to be implemented before the redrafted Preservation and Development Plan can be approved by Riga City Council. ICOMOS has no information on how these provisions have been taken into consideration in the final version of the plan. However, the Inspection confirms that the adoption of the plan will occur only after implementation of the provisions.
There is no information from the Inspection concerning the confirmation of the preservation of the visual integrity of the Historic Centre of Riga or the preservation of the historical watercourses as open public spaces.