A state of conservation report on this property was requested by the World Heritage Committee in Decision 32 COM 7B.40 referred to above, in which, inter alia, the World Heritage Committee noted with concern that development continues to affect the integrity of the property, which if not urgently addressed is likely to lead to significant loss of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.
The State Party provided its report on the state of conservation of this property on 10 February 2009, in which it reaffirms its commitment to protecting the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and comprises a short review of progress since the last decision of the World Heritage Committee, together with three annexes listing outstanding planning applications in the Pitons Management Area (PMA), a proposed design guide for development within the PMA, and a further annex which outlines an initiative of St Lucia to “define and establish the boundaries of the PMA”.
The State Party reports that the Soufrière Region Integrated Development Plan (IDP) has been adopted by St Lucia Cabinet of Ministers, although the date of this decision and its official text are not provided. The outline of this plan was reported to the World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session: it proposes a series of development policy areas, within and around the property, against which specific development control policies would be applied. The World Heritage Committee in its last decision noted the need for the State Party to reflect further on the recommendations of the IDP as drafted in order to ensure that the anticipated levels of development that might result from this strategy do not prejudice the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of the property. The adopted IDP does not appear to have considered this issue and there remains a concern regarding the appropriateness of its policies in relation to the values of the property.
The State Party report does not make it clear how the IDP will be implemented through St Lucia’s planning processes, as was also requested in the decision adopted by the World Heritage Committee in 2008 and nor has the requested baseline on land use within the property requested by the World Heritage Committee been provided. Thus there is no guarantee that the IDP adopted is in keeping with the preservation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, and in the view of IUCN there is a significant concern that, in potentially permitting a range of new built development within a natural World Heritage property, it may not be appropriate. These concerns are heightened by both Annex 2 on Building Design Guidelines, and Annex 3 regarding critical actions required to implement development standards, which both imply that the legal and institutional measures to protect the property are not in place, may facilitate inappropriate development and contain a number of specific points which require clarification. These two annexes also raise a range of detailed concerns that require attention.
This situation is of particular concern, as the State Party also reports that the adoption of the IDP lifted the moratorium on a number of development applications that have been put forward for decision. The report notes that five developments of up to 600 acres (over 240ha) in size have been approved, and lists a number of applications that are yet to be considered. The total area of applications listed in the report of the State Party is estimated at 500ha. Since the total size of this property is less than 3000ha, these developments cover a significant extent of the property, possibly up to 15%. This may create a significant impact on the property. However, the report provides no details of the nature of the developments foreseen within these applications thus further information is needed to adequately assess their potential impact.
The report also notes the “Mignucci Development” which went ahead despite the moratorium and has generated national and international concern. The report does not provide specific details, but this development is understood to comprise a substantial private villa. The State Party report notes that the development impacted negatively on the aesthetics of the PMA. The report suggests the development is “well located in Policy Area 4 of the IDP where certain types of development are permitted”, however it is clear from the adopted policy in the IDP for this area, that this development does not meet the policies of the IDP. The State Party report also mentions measures that have been sought to mitigate this damage, although detail on their impact is lacking.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN remain very concerned that the level of development anticipated within the PMA is setting inappropriate precedents for development within a property inscribed for its natural values under the World Heritage Convention. This concern is heightened by the lack of information regarding the new planning system, the capacity and resource requirements to operate this, the rapid approval of several developments within the World Heritage property with unknown impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, the substantial number of undetermined applications, and the fact that a new development took place contrary to the policies of the recently adopted IDP. The expectations of Paragraph 172 the Operational Guidelines are that States Parties will inform the World Heritage Centre on developments that could affect the values of a World Heritage property. The state of conservation report considered by the World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session also noted that “Any further development within the PMA not strictly conforming to an agreed planning policy should be regarded as providing a clear basis to recommend inscription of the property in the List of World Heritage in Danger”. It is clear that this situation has now arisen, but also that the possibility of further development incompatible with the Outstanding Universal Value of the property is likely.
The State Party report also notes a proposal to “define and establish the boundaries of the PMA”. It is not clear what this exercise is intended to achieve, since the boundaries of the property are already clearly established, and is therefore of concern
The report finally notes a way forward for the property, which emphasizes the establishment of a more autonomous Pitons Management Area World Heritage Site Authority. Little detail is provided on this initiative but it is mainly noted that this will enable better marketing of the PMA as a World Heritage property, and seeking of financial support from the World Heritage Centre to improve the tourism product of the PMA. A number of concerns raised previously about the lack of effectiveness of the management of the property were raised and, according to information received by IUCN remain of significant concern within the conservation community of St Lucia and the Caribbean. These include:
- Adequacy of the skills and expertise within the management authority;
- The need for increased capacity and attention to conservation and regulatory tasks to ensure inappropriate development does not impact on the PMA;
- The need for increasing substantially the level of consultation and engagement with the community and stakeholders, including within the community of Soufrière in the management of the property;
- The provision of adequate sustainable finance the management of the PMA;
- Lack of an effective monitoring plan for the property with clear indicators and sources of verification.
Given this situation the World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the creation of an autonomous unit is premature, and that the emphasis on tourism and marketing should be regarded as a low priority and not be pursued until the effective protection, planning and management of the property has been put in place.