Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 2004
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/1161/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 19,950
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1161/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Previous monitoring missions
March 2010: joint WHC/IUCN reactive monitoring mission
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
Development pressures associated with tourism and housing
Illustrative material see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1161/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2010
On 2 February 2010, the World Heritage Centre received the State Party report on the state of conservation of the property. From 20 to 24 March, 2010, a joint World Heritage Centre / IUCN monitoring mission visited the property, as requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session (Sevilla, 2009). The mission report is available online at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/34COM/.
a) Ongoing development within the property
The terrestrial portion of this small property (2,034 ha) is comprised of 68% private land holdings. Some of these consist of small lots (e.g. 0.1 ha) on which family residences or holiday homes are located, and a few consist of large holdings of up to 100 hectares or more, with many more of intermediate size. Until fairly recently, the larger holdings had been run as agricultural estates (coconut, cocoa) and some agricultural activity continues. With the advent of tourism, and to a certain extent, inscription onto the World Heritage List, landowners have witnessed rapid rises in property prices. In many cases owners seek to capitalize on these changes by either selling to resort developers, or becoming developers themselves by parcelling out their land and selling individual lots, or by seeking partnerships with international investors.
This property was inscribed in part due to its aesthetic attributes; the combination of the Pitons against the backdrop of green tropical vegetation and a varying topography combined with a marine foreground is an attribute that is essential to the natural beauty of the property. The land use pressures to which the property is currently subjected, if not very effectively managed, risk compromising its superlative natural beauty to the point where its Outstanding Universal Value may be permanently lost.
Whereas at the time of inscription, there were three larger resorts (Jalousie Estate, Ladera Resort, and Stonefield Estate) with a total of approximately 175 units (villas and hotel rooms combined), at the time of the mission four additional resorts had received at least preliminary approvals (Jalousie Enclave, Hotel Chocolat, Malgre Toute Estate and Beau Estate) which would result in a total of approximately 350 additional units, half of which would be located within visually sensitive lands between the two pitons, which are the key features of this property.
The State Party reported that though there was cause for concern over the approvals process for the Mignucci development mentioned in Decision 33 COM 7B.30, it confirms that steps were taken to remedy the situation. The mission inspected this development, built on steeply sloping lands between the pitons, and noted that should this kind of development multiply in this area, it would be difficult to guarantee the visual integrity of the property and hence its Outstanding Universal Value. The mission also noted the presence of two very prominent telecommunications towers located on the summit of hills within the property and suggests that these be relocated in such a way as to minimize their visibility.
Given the small size of the property and sensitive nature of its values, including the natural aesthetic values that are in part the basis for its inscription, there is little tolerance possible for development impacts within the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN reiterate the need for decisive action by the State Party to immediately halt all ongoing development within the property until such a time that it can be demonstrated to the World Heritage Committee that the tools are in place to guarantee the protection of the viewscape from being disrupted by inappropriate development.
b) Inadequacy of development control regulations
There is good professional capacity in the land use planning unit of the Ministry for Physical Development and St Lucia has an established legal framework for land use planning. However, despite recent efforts, the effectiveness of the land use policy framework for the property, and the tools available in the decision-making process remain insufficient to guarantee protection of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. This situation resulted in an environment where accusations of arbitrary decision-making could be made. This gap was recognized shortly after inscription, and in an attempt to fill it, the State Party commissioned, with its own resources, an Integrated Development Plan for the property. In its State of Conservation Report, the State Party notes that, though having been approved by the Cabinet in 2007, the Plan “fails to satisfactorily address the requirements for the sustainable development of the Pitons Management Area”. Despite the admission that development regulations are currently unsatisfactory, large resort development applications have been approved, in principle, directly by the cabinet (Malgretoute, Jalousie Enclave, Jalousie Estate), some of which were approved at the highest level in 2009. These decisions are clearly contrary to the World Heritage Committee request for a moratorium on further development (Decision 33 COM 7B.39).
In response to this continuing need for development regulations focusing on conserving the property’s Outstanding Universal Value, a set of “Specific Guidelines” has been drafted by the State Party with a view to controlling developmental activities in the property. These are provided in the State Party report in draft form. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN have reviewed these draft guidelines and do not consider them to provide sufficient assurance that the visual integrity of the site will be protected. For example, the most visually fragile part of the property (e.g. around the base of, and between the pitons), minimum lot sizes of as low as 1,000 square metres are recommended, and a blanket “20 foot” height limit to buildings is recommended, regardless of terrain or location of the proposed building. Should this policy be exploited to its fullest, it could potentially result in several hundred additional homes between the two pitons (there were currently approximately 150 individual residences between the pitons at the time of the mission), many on very steep slopes. The State Party has been requested by the World Heritage Centre to await formal feedback from the World Heritage Centre and IUCN prior to formally adopting these guidelines. They reiterate that additional development incompatible with the property’s Outstanding Universal Value will result in the loss of those values.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the State Party immediately revise both the “Specific Guidelines” and any relevant land use plans and development control regulations to ensure that development within the property is strictly limited and any further development is not permitted, except under exceptional circumstances. Any exceptional permitted development should have no adverse impact on the integrity of the property, including in relation to its aesthetic values. A suggested approach would be to undertake a thorough study of topography and vegetation as a function of preserving the aesthetic values of the property. This information should serve to establish detailed and strict development policies, applicable at fine ground level resolution, strictly regulating the type, location and size of a limited number of any exceptional new constructions, and a clear basis for exceptional justification of development.
c) Perceptions of World Heritage status
Beyond the issue of development regulations, the mission team noted that the property would benefit from a regional development and public use planning exercise. Currently, there is no apparent overall vision for the property and its surrounding lands. Decisions are made in reaction to development applications, and there is some discord amongst various stakeholder groups as to what World Heritage status should mean for them. These groups (e.g. landowners, and resort owners within - and surrounding the property, the surrounding communities of Choiseul and Soufriere, government agencies and tour operators) should work together to develop a coordinated longer term vision for the region, focusing on conservation and economic development based on the natural attributes of the property.
The State Party reports that the current Pitons Management Area office will be transformed into an authority, giving it a greater mandate and decision-making powers. The mission team noted that, in its current state, this office is considered as a project under the Ministry of Physical Development and Environment, with a mandate limited to little more than communication. Giving this office a more pro-active role in the area, combined with assuring sufficient skills, staffing and resources, particularly in regards to promoting community development and conservation, could contribute to consolidating the integrity of the property.
In conclusion, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that utmost concern exists regarding the Pitons Management Area. The pattern of insufficiently regulated development that has taken place, and the possibility of significant development proposals, may already have created a situation where the Outstanding Universal Value of the property could be lost, a situation that would imply the eventual deletion of the property from the World Heritage List. Although efforts have been made to address this situation, the State Party itself has recognized in its report to the World Heritage Centre that these have been unsatisfactory. Despite this, it has continued to approve major developments with the potential to significantly and irreversibly affect its Outstanding Universal Value.
IUCN notes that it recommended that the World Heritage Committee defer the property at the time of inscription, due, in part, to its evaluation that there was a lack of effective capacity to protect the property from threats. IUCN regrets that the concerns it raised in this regard appear to have become a reality, and is additionally concerned that premature inscription of the property on the World Heritage List appears to have increased damaging pressures on the property, due to additional development pressures that have been experienced due to its World Heritage status. IUCN considers that the challenges facing this property illustrate starkly why effective protection and management, including in relation to the potential impacts of World Heritage Site status, is an integral part of the concept of Outstanding Universal Value, and thus should be a material consideration of the World Heritage Committee when taking the decision to inscribe a property on the World Heritage List.
The lack of an effective system of development control, combined with significant shortcomings in relation to the management of the property, means that no guarantee of the protection of the property can currently be made. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that clear development regulations, which include specific consideration for the maintenance of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value, are urgently required. In addition the management of the property needs to be reviewed and strengthened, including better engagement with communities and stakeholders. Under these circumstances, inscription onto the List of World Heritage in Danger is considered as a useful approach to ensure the full engagement of stakeholders at the national, and ideally, at the international level, so that the situation can be rectified as soon as possible.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN
Decision Adopted: 34 COM 7B.37
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Document WHC-10/34.COM/7B.Add,
2. Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.39, adopted at its 33rd (Seville, 2009),
3. Notes with concern that despite the World Heritage Committee's request for a moratorium on development, the State Party has continued to approve major development applications;
4. Reiterates its request for the State Party to urgently place a moratorium on the creation of new lots and on the construction of all new residential and hotel development until such a time as new effective regulations are in place to determine if and where such developments could be permitted;
5. Strongly urges the State Party to immediately revise both the "Specific Guidelines" and any relevant land use plans and development control regulations to ensure that development is strictly circumscribed in order to avoid any deterioration of the property's integrity, including in relation to aesthetic values. The draft planning and development control documents prepared to this end should be communicated to the World Heritage Centre prior to being formally adopted;
6. Urges the State Party to carry out a comprehensive regional development and public use planning process focusing on achieving a consensual multi-stakeholder vision on conservation and economic development, with specific regard to the property's Outstanding Universal Value;
7. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2011, a report on the state of conservation of the property, focusing specifically on progress in halting existing development permits within the property and establishing an effective development control system, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 35th session in 2011.