State of Conservation
Ancient City of Nessebar
Factors affecting the property in 2019*
- Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
- Management systems/ management plan
- Marine transport infrastructure
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Lack of a Management Plan
- Urban development pressure
- Lack of an urban master plan and of a conservation master plan of monuments and archaeological sites
- Illegal constructions
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2019
Requests approved: 3
Total amount approved : 21,290 USD
|1995||Establishment of an itinerant conservation laboratory ... (Approved)||4,290 USD|
|1991||Restoration of the frescoes of St-Stephen Church in ... (Approved)||15,000 USD|
|1991||Mission to identify works necessary for the restoration ... (Approved)||2,000 USD|
Missions to the property until 2019**
November 2010, October 2018: joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; November 2012: ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; November 2017: joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/UNESCO Scientific and Technical Advisory Body (STAB - 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage) Advisory mission
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019
On 30 November 2018, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation, with annexes, which is accessible at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/217/documents/ and reports on the implementation of Decision 41 COM 7B.43 and other activities over the period February 2017 – November 2018, as follows:
- A Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) for the rehabilitation project of the Severna – Buna fishing port was developed;
- Amendments to the Cultural Heritage Act to fund Conservation Management plans, to strengthen the role of the Centre for Underwater Archaeology, and to require HIAs for World Heritage properties were approved;
- A National Culture Fund and Nessebar Municipal Fund “Culture” were established;
- Ordinances for protection of Nessebar’s urban historic spaces and regarding local taxes, including a tourist tax were established (although no date is provided);
- An ordinance to reduce the size of ships allowed to moor at Nessebar Port Terminal from 180m to 160m was issued;
- Restrictions on motor vehicle traffic within the property over summer were adopted;
- Monitoring of the state of conservation of various monuments was implemented;
- Removal of illegal constructions is ongoing;
- A scheme-concept for advertisement and information signs/billboards was approved;
- Tourism promotion activities were undertaken or planned, including projects for cultural heritage;
- The restoration of the Church of St. John Aliturgetos was completed;
- Underwater archaeological investigations and documentation of the medieval and post-medieval “graffiti” commenced.
A number of key steps remain pending, namely:
- Establishing an inter-ministerial working group for completing and approving the Conservation and Management Plan;
- Revision of the General Development Master Plan in relation to Natura 2000 requirements;
- Elaboration of the detailed Development Plan, based on the adopted Conservation Regimes for the Ancient City of Nessebar (2015);
- The construction ban will only apply for two consecutive years plus one additional year, based on the 2013 and 2014 amendments to the Spatial Planning Act.
The State Party does not envisage any transfer of port infrastructure from the Nessebar Port Terminal outside the peninsula away from the visual catchment of the property. The State Party has also advised of the approval of a project for a school and sport facility, including an underground parking within the buffer zone, in the area of the Messambria Ancient Necropolis.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2019
Some progress has occurred with the implementation of the Committee’s Decisions, however, key steps are yet to be addressed, particularly the approval of the updated Conservation Management Plan, the elaboration of the Detailed Development Plan for the property and its buffer zone, the revision of the General Development Master Plan, and the constitution of an inter-ministerial working group to ensure clear governance and management of the property based on its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV).
The size of ships allowed to moor at the Nessebar Port Terminal is now 160m, which still impacts negatively on the visual character of the property, and is not consistent with the capacity of the property to sustain pressures from several hundred cruisers at the same time. It is of great concern that the State Party does not recognize the need to relocate these ships and associated infrastructure elsewhere considering the ascertained negative impacts that large cruise ships have proved to cause to similar properties. The rehabilitation project of the Nessebar – Buna Fishing Port does not adequately address required improvements for the target area. The approved school and sport facility, with underground parking, in the area of the Messambria Ancient Necropolis, requiring removal of all archaeological vestiges up to the sterile layer, is indicative of a management approach that is not focused on cultural heritage. There is no shared, clear vision for the future of Nessebar, centred on the preservation and promotion of its OUV. Uneven involvement and commitment from all relevant national and local administrations and stakeholders prevent a coherent, effective, inter-sectorial response to the negative factors affecting the property.
The October 2018 joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission, which followed previous missions, including the 2015 ICOMOS Advisory mission and the 2017 joint Advisory mission of the World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/Scientific and Technical Advisory Body (STAB) to the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, found that the state of conservation of the property is impacted by negative factors which represent both ascertained and potential threats to the OUV of the property. The mission reports are accessible at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/217/documents/. The 2018 mission found that the attributes of OUV of the property are deteriorated and, in some instances, irredeemably spoiled. In particular, it found that the “tangible traces” of “numerous civilizations” are hardly detectable in the context of an urban environment and a costal landscape that has undergone drastic changes; most of the typical townhouses that illustrated “the different stages of development of the characteristic wooden houses, which testify to the supreme mastery of the architecture of the Balkans as well as the East Mediterranean region” have been altered or transformed irretrievably; the “medieval churches” that are the most valuable and tangible portion of Nessebar’s heritage, whilst preserved and restored, no longer dominate the urban ensemble, the spirituality of the town that was “a remarkable spiritual hearth of Christian culture” is lost; the “urban fabric of high quality” has lost its coherence and its historic appeal owing to the great number of minor alterations combined with the major transformation of the coast; the “vibrant urban organism” has been transformed for commercial purposes to service the beach resorts nearby: in the summer, it is suffocated by mass tourism interested in its restaurants and commercial facilities; for the rest of the year, it is almost abandoned.
The 2018 mission recommendations incorporate those from earlier missions and include immediate and longer-term actions required. A number of the threats have been identified and reported to the Committee previously, leading to Decision 41 COM 7B.43, which foreshadowed that the Committee would examine the state of conservation of the property, with a view to considering, in the absence of substantial progress, its possible inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The progress made by the State Party is acknowledged but is not sufficient to address the ongoing threats to the integrity, authenticity and OUV of the property, as confirmed by the findings of the 2018 mission, and therefore, in accordance with Paragraph 179 of the Operational Guidelines, the property warrants inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2019
Draft Decision 43 COM 7B.81
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 41 COM 7B.43, adopted at its 41st session (Krakow, 2017),
- Takes note of some progress of the State Party in implementing previous Committee decisions and mission recommendations, but notes with concern that steps undertaken are insufficient and that some urgent matters are yet to be addressed;
- Notes with great concern that the 2018 Reactive Monitoring mission found that the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property are deteriorated and, in some instances, irredeemably spoiled;
- Notes with great concern that actions taken to date are not sufficient to reverse the current negative trend and to remove the substantial threats to the OUV of the property: the size of ships allowed to moor at Nessebar Terminal remains excessive for the property and is likely to cause additional negative visual impacts and serious pressures, the OUV of the property remains peripheral in the property’s overall management;
- Urges the State Party to devise a different strategy for the future of Nessebar, based on sustainable, compatible and equitable development of the town, centred on its OUV, including the relocation of all tourist cruise terminals and commercial ports for large ships elsewhere along the coast outside the visual catchment of the property, and specifically to recover the terminal area using careful and light intervention compatible with the OUV of the property, and to reduce further and substantially the size of ships allowed to moor at Nessebar Port Terminal;
- Notes with regret that the State Party has not complied with all of the requests expressed by the Committee in Decision 41 COM 7B.43, and considers that the property is prone to both ongoing ascertained and potential threats to the property in conformity with Paragraph 179 of the Operational Guidelines and therefore, decides to inscribe the Ancient City of Nessebar (Bulgaria) on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
- Strongly reiterates its requests to the State Party to:
- Establish as a matter of high priority the proposed high-level inter-ministerial committee, supported by a working group and by all relevant institutions, tasked with the development of an OUV-based shared vision for Nessebar, which orients all present and future decisions about the property’s enhancement and development, and will be pivotal for all current and future plans and projects,
- Finalize, adopt and implement the Conservation Management Plan, Detailed Development Plan and General Development Master Plan, based on the OUV of the property, as well as to enforce the existing protection regimes,
- Develop an overall sustainable mobility plan to ensure the smooth circulation of residents, visitors and goods within the property, and between the mainland and the property,
- Implement fully all of the recommendations of the 2018 mission as well as all previous mission recommendations that are yet to be addressed;
- Also requests the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, to develop a proposal for the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) and a set of corrective measures with a timeframe for their implementation, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020;
- Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2020, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session.
The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).