The World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008) regretted that no progress had been made in developing a comprehensive management plan for the property and its buffer zone, and requested the State Party to submit the property’s Development Plan and ensure conformity between the two plans. The World Heritage Committee also asked the State Party to submit a progress report on the status of the proposed thematic plan “Framework for High-rise Buildings”, all for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in 2009, with a view to considering, in the absence of substantial progress, the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The State Party submitted a report on 1 February 2009, which addresses the issues raised above and also provides a number of general comments on the state of conservation of the property.
a) Development plan
The State Party report suggests that the character of the Development Plan is such that it performs all the functions of a management plan. It notes specifically that the Development Plan of Tallinn Old Town incorporates the components of a comprehensive management plan: overview and prerequisites of the object, including historical development, heritage protection and cultural heritage, conservation and reconstruction, Old Town as World Heritage site, different environments within the Old Town and essential factors having an impact on it, zoning, vision for the development and guidelines for the future, goals and sub-goals, the executors of these goals, the necessary means for meeting these goals, time schedule and the budget for keeping the time schedule.
The State Party also informed that it considered that an essential task is to prepare a framework for addressing urban development and other threats, for fostering sustainable development of Tallinn Old Town as an authentic and holistic city space, for regulating the rights and obligations of different owners, and for guaranteeing efficient administration. It noted that concerns have been addressed in the adopted “Development Plan of Tallinn Old Town” and in the other existing legal documents such as “Statutes of Tallinn Heritage Protection Area (Decree of the Government of Estonia 155, (20 May 2003), and that it seems to share all of the characteristics of a management plan”.
The State Party report also notes that the concept of a management plan does not exist in the Estonian legal framework.
b) Framework of high-rise buildings
The State Party report also describes progress in review and implementation of the Framework for high-rise buildings. This has now been approved by the National Heritage Board and the Tallinn Department of Cultural Heritage; the process of approval by the Harju County Government and the Tallinn City Council is underway. The State Party further notes that the Framework for high rise buildings is supported by the Statutes of the Tallinn Old Town, which in their turn exclude any harmful building activity in the buffer zone, view sectors and corridors of the Old Town, and that on 6 March 2008, the “Regulation of Tallinn Central City Milieu Protection Areas, Boundaries, Protection and Usage Conditions” was approved, which covers the main area of the Tallinn Old Town buffer zone and regulates building activity in the historical suburbs has been in place.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that the issue of high-rise buildings adjacent to World Heritage properties or in their buffer zone is being discussed for many cases and that policy advice is being developed, including with a proposed UNESCO Recommendation relating to Historic Urban Landscapes (see Document WHC-09/33.COM/7.1).
c) Other matters
The State Party report also provides additional information about the amount and focus on investment in the Old Town over the last ten years, demonstrating that investment has been directed to many projects of important social value, including schools. The report also documents successful efforts from 2002 to maintain the “Tallinn Church Renaissance” and more recent efforts dating from 2008 and still ongoing to refurbish and enhance Vadabuse (Liberty) Square.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that the Development Plan of Tallinn Old Town is a very comprehensive document introducing and analyzing many of the key issues important in the long term development of an historic town interested to protect its heritage, and also to maintain its living character and its ability to act as a meaningful source of identity for its residents.
However, even taken together with existing heritage protection statutes, this is very far from the “Management plan” requested on several occasions by the World Heritage Committee. The Development Plan does not stress the need to root all actions within the Old Town in a defined Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, it does not provide or present such a Statement; nor does it show how the various actors will integrate their actions and capacities around respect for the defined Outstanding Universal Value of the property. Finally, it does not define what actions will be necessary to adapt the existing management system to these goals. As noted in the state of conservation report prepared for this property last year (2008), the Development Plan seems to be a strategic master plan focused on physical and functional improvements rather than a fully developed, process-oriented contemporary heritage management plan. The Development Plan analyses options for change, but does not show how decision-making in all sectors and at all levels will need to adapt to ensure respect for the Outstanding Universal Value that lies at its heart, for all concerned.
The State Party report notes that “the difference between a management plan and a Development Plan in this context is rather a question of wording than substance”. However, ICOMOS and World Heritage Centre consider that this distinction involves much more than semantic differences, and would note that the management plan requested by the World HeritageCommittee is neither a protection plan nor a master plan shaping future developments and physical changes and use, but a process based planning instrument meant to ensure that decisions in all sectors and at all levels give priority to respect for the property’s defined Outstanding Universal Value. The State Party’s Development Plan does not put in place such a management framework.