In its evaluation of the nomination for Berat as an extension to Girokastra, ICOMOS noted that ‘this damaging phenomenon [of illegal constructions] has been practically stopped and is under control. It would be important for the State Party to ensure that these unauthorised constructions should be identified, and penalties imposed, and that a return to this type of practice is made impossible. A map identifying the constructions concerned has been announced and tighter monitoring ensuring that future actions of this type are prevented. ICOMOS considers that it is indeed essential to precisely identify the illegal constructions through an inventory and plans, and to absolutely prevent the return to such practices, which took place at a particular period of Albanian history. ICOMOS also considers that it is necessary to draw up a long-term plan to remove the illegal constructions, in order to improve the values and integrity of the property.
ICOMOS recommended that the nomination be referred back to the State Party in order to allow it to provide details of the structure for the coordination of the management plan for the two towns, in accordance with Paragraph 114 of the Operational Guidelines, and guarantee its setting up, its competencies, as well as addressing the need for an inventory of illegal constructions, monitoring indicators, fire fighting arrangements and responsive archaeological investigations.
The World Heritage Committee requested the State Party to submit a report to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2009 on the implementation of a number of measures.
Meanwhile the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS have been made aware of further illegal constructions, particularly in a prominent area of the buffer zone for Berat.
On 1 February 2009, a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party. The report presents in some detail alterations and constructions carried out illegally within the two towns, inadequacies of the fire fighting arrangements, but does not address all the concerns of the World Heritage Committee.
a) Illegal constructions
The report provides an inventory of building violations in both Gorokastra and Berat. According to the data on the infringements of the law on Protection of the Cultural Inheritance, there are 40 violations in Berat and 245 in Gjirokastra. These include new buildings and amendments to existing buildings. Some of these infringements have a greater impact than others: for instance new buildings and changes in materials, such as the use of concrete, have a greater impact than interior alterations. Similarly some changes are reversible, such as a change in roof covering, while others are not. The reason why the infringements are much greater Gjirokastra is explained by the lack of possibilities for expanding the city apart from within the protected zone, while in Berat these possibilities exist. In response to these threats, it is stated that therevision of the law on the protection of the monuments will be amended to be more appropriate to allow improvements to living conditions which respect value, in conformity with the international standards in this field. With regard to the infringements, it is stated that it will be necessary to demolish certain illegal constructions and to amend or reverse certain modifications. These decisions will be preceded by professional evaluations and authorizations by the relevant authorities. However, no action plan or timescale is provided for these processes. Although at the time Berat was inscribed as an extension of Girokastra, it was stated that illegal constructions had taken place, particularly in the buffer zone, but that this had practically been stopped and measures were in place to ensure that the lack of control did not persist. However comparatively large-scale new houses are continuing to be constructed in the buffer zone on a hill opposite the castle gate, and these constructions are highly visible from within the old town.
b) Monitoring indicators
The report states that monitoring indicators which reflect the way the Outstanding Universal Value of the property is being sustained would bethe number of the monuments restored each year and the annual funds put towards this process. It is suggested that these would be monitored every three years. Given the problems of illegal construction outlined above, it is clear that more detailed indicators need to be established to monitor changes in the overall urban fabric of vernacular buildings, not just the main monuments, as these are part of the justification for inscription. It is suggested that the main attributes of the two towns that reflect Outstanding Universal Value should be indicated and monitoring indicators developed to monitor these which should include, streetscapes and views.
c) Archaeological excavations
The report states that the Institute of Archaeology does not envisage excavations in the two castles of the two towns in the five next years. However, the Institute of Monuments (IMK) will carry archaeological surveys out as part of restoration and conservation work by specialists qualified in this field. The report also states that IMK, will insist that the Institute of Archaeology should carry out excavations in the two castles in order to precisely determine the phases of construction of these fortifications. It should be clarified that major excavations are not being requested but rather a programme to allow archaeological intervention when any development of major restoration is undertaken.
d) Fire Fighting
Fire-protection is problematic in both Gjirokastra and Berat because of difficult access for fire fighters. The most serious situation exists in the districts Mangalem, Gorice and part of the Kala in Berat where the movement of the firemen is almost impossible. The municipality of Berat has defined a project for installing a hydrant network in the problematic districts like Mangalem and Gorice; however, the cost of such a project in the Mangalem district would be approximately 61,680 Euros, and in Gorice 43,250 Euros. Gjirokastra has a fire station with qualified personnel, vehicles and equipment as well as five water hydrants. In July 2008, the Town Council agreed to improve collaboration between the regional institutions for water and fire prevention to allow the construction of new hydrants. The Municipality of Gjirokastra does not have an overall plan for the protection of the historic town. The World Bank has financed preparations towards the development of such a long-term plan.
e) Tourism Development Plan
Although considerable details are provided on the number of tourists, the increase due to inscription, the effect on the two towns in terms of changes of use (hotels and guesthouses), promotion and the aim to quadruple the number of tourists by 2014, (from 20 to 80 thousand), there are no details of a coordinated tourism strategy, not any mention of the management plan.
In view of the difficulties of controlling development in the two towns, a coordinated cultural tourism development plan that puts in places strategies for sustainable growth in tourism numbers and plans facilities that respect the value of the property is essential in order to avoid any negative impact of tourism and could balance between benefits and disbenefits to the local community. The improvement in visitor services should be strictly assessed within the framework of the management plan.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies acknowledge progress with the development of an inventory of planning violations but is concerned at the lack of an agreed action plan and timescale to address these and the fact that planning violations are continuing to occur in a prominent part of the buffer zone in Berat opposite the castle gates and as well as in Old Bazaar area of the World Heritage of Gjirokastra. There is also a need to develop monitoring indicators that fully reflect the attributes of the two towns that carry Outstanding Universal Value and which could help address these planning violations.
Although the vulnerabilities of the fire protection are acknowledged, there is concern at the lack of an overall agreed fire response plan for the overall property. In the light of the ambitious targets for tourism development, there is great concern about the lack of an overall tourism development plan within the framework of the management plan for the serial property.