1.         Historic Centre of Prague (Czechia) (C 616bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1992

Criteria  (ii)(iv)(vi)

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/616/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2003-2003)
Total amount approved: USD 40,000
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/616/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

February-March 2008: World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Development of high rise constructions on the Pankrác plain;

b) Lack of effectiveness of existing planning, management and conservation measures for the property.

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/616/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2009

At its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008) the World Heritage Committee requested the State Party to improve the effectiveness of its existing planning, management and conservation measures in order to further reduce negative impact of high-rise construction in the property and its buffer zone, in line with the 2008 joint mission recommendations. The State Party submitted a state of conservation report on the Historic Centre of Prague on 28 January 2009, which addresses these issues: 

a) Strengthening the authority of the National Heritage Institute to enable it to orient the main decisions affecting the integrity of the Historic Centre

A redefinition of the functions of this Institute are currently being discussed.. The most significant changes include transfer of some power from the Ministry of Culture to Regional Offices; increased penalties for breach of legal obligations; and the empowerment of municipalities to take general measures to protect heritage sites through Protection Plans. The content and intentions of Protection Plans will come into effect on 1 January 2009. The Ministry of Culture is considering creating a new Act on State Heritage Protection. 

b) Clarifying and integrating the rules presently in force to manage processes such as infill, reconstruction, rehabilitation and conservation in a unitary code to improve the ability of the responsible authorities to maintain the integrity of the original fabric of the city

c) Urgently completing and approving the conservation plan for the Historic Centre in order to provide an effective zoning and planning tool for the conservation process in the Historic Centre

In December 2008, the Prague City Council approved the updated City of Prague Strategic Plan for the period 2009 - 2015. It also approved the elaboration of City Wide Significant Changes of the Land Use Plan, including limits of the protected areas, the way they are protected, and a methodology for height regulation of structures. This will be submitted to the City authorities for approval in 2010. The 2002 Prague Heritage Site Urban Planning Study is expected to be completed by the end of 2009. 

d) Completing the management plan of the property in 2008 as a comprehensive tool for the coordination of all the different regulatory and policy frameworks existing or foreseen for the Historic Centre, for eventual review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies

In 2008, the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic introduced a new central grant programme called “Support for UNESCO Monuments”. A new management plan is currently in preparation within the framework of this programme, and a draft version was received by the World Heritage Centre in January 2009. Its final version will be submitted to official bodies for approval by 2010. Details of principles, and a conception strategy for the management of the historic centre, will be incorporated into the Plan by 2012. Updates and refinement are planned for every 4-5 years thereafter, with the first update due in 2015.

e) Conduct an evaluation of the present buffer zones of the Historic Centre in order to assess their effectiveness in protecting the visual integrity of the city and, if needed, extend these and adopt appropriate related zoning regulations

Prior to the approval of the Land Use Plan in 2010 the potential new borders of the buffer zone, will be officially forwarded to the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS for assessment.

f) Limit, in the case of the Pankrác Plain, the height of the new high-rise constructions to a maximum of 60-70m, in order to avoid visual impacts on the historic urban landscape of the property

The existing 80 and 104m-high structures, which were approved prior to the World Heritage Committee meeting in July 2008, are currently subject to discussions. An appeal on procedural and factual grounds against the zoning permits was refused by the appeal authority, and the zoning permit has taken legal effect. However, considering the importance of the proposed structures, court proceedings objecting to the zoning permits, is expected to take place as a next step. Any new structures proposed will comply with the decisions adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session and will not exceed the recommended height of 60-70m. 

The World Heritage Centre received in during January/February 2009 numerous letters from Czech NGOs informing that the local authorities approved the construction of two new buildings in the Pankrac Plain area. These buildings are planned to be 80 and 104m-high, despite the Decision of the World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session. On 9 March 2009, the World Heritage Centre requested the State Party to provide additional information on this issue. At the time of the preparation of this document no answer has been received.

The State Party also submitted descriptions of the most important larger restoration works, changes and new buildings within the preserved area that have occurred in Prague during 2008, listed 29 major rehabilitation and restoration, including the Charles Bridge and Noblewoman's Home in Prague Castle, and more than 20 planned constructions. 

The State Party also raises the problematic issue of historic railway stations. Statements regarding concerns over new traffic proposals, changes to Wenceslas Square, and the possible creation of Prague's “Museum Mile” are also included.

In addition, the World Heritage Centre was informed, in January 2009 that construction of a traffic expressway within the boundary of the property and its buffer zone started in 2007. The project consists of three tunnels segments, linked by four multi-level overpasses/tunnel exits accompanied by large underground parking lots and several exhaust chimneys situated in residential areas. Named the Blanka Tunnel Complex, the combined length of 6.4 kilometres creates the longest city expressway tunnel in Europe. There is stated concern that due to the tunnel construction the baroque city walls, which are part of the northern border of the property, will be damaged. There is also concern that two pre World War II villa's have already been demolished in the buffer zone, and that the felling of hundreds of trees and the destruction of other greenery in the City is taking place.

Independent traffic calculations suggest an increase from 36,000 vehicles a day to 54,000 a day on the surface, and a further 111,000 vehicles a day in the tunnel by 2015, with consequential health concerns regarding noise and pollution. No study of its impact on the property has been carried out, nor has the project been subjected to an Environmental Impact Assessment.

The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS note the positive steps that have been taken to address the concerns expressed at the last session, in particular that the content and intentions of Protection Plans will come into effect on 1 January 2009, that in December 2008 Prague City Council approved the updated City of Prague Strategic Plan for the period 2009 – 2015, and that, in the longer term, the Ministry of Culture is considering creating a new Act on State Heritage Protection. They also welcome the possibility of legal action to limit high-rise buildings on Pankrác Plain. Threats emerging to the city’s railway heritage, as set out by the State Party are noted. They would welcome being notified at an early stage about proposals for Wenceslas Square and Prague’s ‘Museum Mile’.

 

The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS are however extremely concerned that information on the proposed Blanka Tunnel Complex was not made available to the Mission in 2008 nor has been mentioned in State Party reports. From the details so far available, it appears that this project could impact on parts of the property such as the Castle, walls and urban green areas and overall on its integrity. It appears that that no Environmental Impact Assessment has been carried out. As a matter of urgency, full details for this project need to be supplied, in order that an assessment of its impact can be made.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

 

Decision Adopted: 33 COM 7B.96

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-09/33.COM/7B,

2. Recalling Decision 32 COM 7B.86, adopted at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008),

3. Notes the information provided and progress made by the State Party in the preparation of the new Land Use Plan and the management plans;

4. Expresses its deep concern at the potential impacts of the Blanka Tunnel Complex on the property, on the lack of information so far provided and on the apparent lack of an impact assessment of this project on the attributes and value of the property, and requests the State Party to urgently provide full details of this project;

5. Also requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to the property to assess the implications of the Blanka Tunnel Complex, the concerns over new traffic proposals, changes to Wenceslas Square, the possible creation of Prague's "Museum Mile" and the issue of historic railway stations;

6. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2010, a detailed progress report on the above mentioned issues, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010.