The main reason for the 2008 joint World Heritage Centre /ICOMOS mission was to consider the impact of the proposed Verige bridge across the estuary some 2.5km from Kotor. The mission also considered the overall conservation of the property and confirmed the accelerated pressure for development, noted after the mission in 2003, particularly from tourist facilities out of scale with traditional buildings. It also noted the lack of legal instruments, plans, resources, capacity and coordination between authorities to respond to this and the lack of a buffer zone (first requested after the 2003 mission) to protect the backdrop and wider foreground to Kotor, both areas that are so interrelated to the property that they should be considered together with it as an overall integrated cultural landscape. The World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008) requested the State Party to respond to these issues.
The mission noted the potential damage that the proposed bridge would cause to the visual integrity of the property and requested that no further approvals should be given before a visual impact study has been undertaken and an adequate buffer zone has been put in place. It also requested the State Party to consider other options.
The State Party submitted a report dated 2 February 2009 which included a detailed progress report and also included ‘location studies’ on a proposed bypass road and locations for tourism development which have been reviewed by ICOMOS.. The State Party requested a response on the location studies to move forward with their decisions. A summary of ICOMOS’s comments is included in this report.
a) Buffer zone
The progress reports recalls that no buffer zones were delineated during the nomination process and that Kotor and its bay covers a complex property including municipal territory, Kotor and Risan Bays and areas from three neighbouring municipalities. The boundaries were examined in 2008 and a working group has been set up under the authority of the Board for the World Natural and Cultural Heritage, which includes representatives of relevant ministries, institutions, and NGOs. This group will elaborate the boundaries of the buffer zone. No timescale has been set out. However it is said that a necessary precondition for the development of the buffer zone is the new Law on Cultural Heritage that is expected to be adopted in 2009.
The authorities also inform that following the report of the joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS mission of February 2008, a series of activities were initiated including a visit of two experts who came to Kotor on 22 January 2009.
b) Cultural Landscape
The World Heritage Committee, in 2008, invited the State Party to consider the possibility of nominating a wider area as a cultural landscape. The report states that this has been noted as a long-term goal.
c) Verige Bridge: environmental impact assessment
The States Party notes that a new project developed by the Ministry of Tourism with the German technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ) “Integrated Spatial Planning and Landscape Protection of Boka Kotorska Bay’ includes environmental impact assessments of infrastructure projects. The report emphasized that the Ministry for Culture, Sports and Media will issue the official assessment of the Visual Impact Study of the Verige Bridge project which will then be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies. The GTZ will also provide 50% of the funds for the study estimated at 50,000 Euros. An initial meeting was held on 23 January 2009 to coordinate the project at political and operational levels. At the time of the preparation of this document the study has not been received.
d) Verige Bridge: other options
The report does not detail any consideration of alternative options.
e) management plan
The State Party report also informed about the status of the management plan, which was submitted in February 2007, and was reviewed by the Advisory Bodies and by the February 2008 joint reactive monitoring mission. The mission recommendations are now being taken into account; however the coordination body for management has not yet been established as proposed.
f) Legal Framework
The legal and financial framework for the adoption and implementation of the management plan is expected to be established in 2009 and this should provide a basis for the management system. A new advisory group will be created to advise on urbanization issues and to ensure coordination between different development plans.
g) Statement of Outstanding Universal Value
The report noted that a draft statement for Outstanding Universal Value is in preparation.
It is anticipated that, in the future, the Regional Institute Kotor will receive national funds of 14,000 Euro per year. Approval for this is expected shortly. Its responsibility has been defined to cover all activities for cultural heritage conservation for the territories of Kotor, Tivat and Herceg Novi, in particular for research and conservation of the 516 registered monuments. The institute will also issue conservation guidelines and participate in the elaboration of development plans. The lack of staff still seems to be a serious problem, in particular in view of major foreign investments and planning activities of the municipalities.
The report concludes with an overview of archaeological research, movable heritage issues and restoration activities at monuments, including the St Pauls Church in the Town of Kotor, St Tryphon’s Church in Morinj, Church of St Francis, Smekja and Sestokrilovic Plalaces in Perast as well as the cleaning of the city walls.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies welcome progress made, and note that a number of issues still have to be taken into account to fully implement all recommendations of the February 2008 joint mission. However they remain very concerned that the lack of adequate frameworks for conservation and management, as recommended by the mission, in the light of the continuing pressure for development.
ICOMOS has reviewed the material sent by the State Party on the proposed bypass and locations for tourism development.
i) Proposed bypass
The proposed road would run around all bay of Kotor and Risa, cutting through the vertical structure of the landscape approximately 90 meters above the existing road. It appears from plans provided that further tourist development would be associated with the road.
If it is carried out, the road would conflict irreversibly with the structure of the cultural landscape in the immediate setting of the property and could have a profound impact on its integrity.
ICOMOS notes that in spite of the decision by the Regional Institute to reject a hotel project at Morinj, the Municipality of Kotor has approved a new project with more hotels on the same site. It also notes that there are further developments planned for nearby bays. A full delineation of the buffer zone needs to be completed before impact studies can be undertaken for future development projects.