At its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007), the World Heritage Committee took note of the Action Plan 2007-2009 provided by the newly designated management entity Parques de Sintra-Monte da Lua (PSML), supported by all public territorial institutions concerned. It also requested the State Party to ensure the continuous political and financial support of the site management entity so as to advance the preparations and elaboration of an integrated World Heritage Site management plan for 2010-2014 and to adopt improved measures to control urban encroachment in the core and buffer zones of the World Heritage property. The joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/IUCN reactive monitoring mission of 2006 had reported that the conservation of the major palaces had been considerably improved while the main threats identified continued to exist.
The State Party provided an updated report on 19 March 2009 prepared by the responsible site-managing entity of Parques de Sintra-Monte da Lua (PSML). The report recalls the structure of PSML being a public company regrouping shareholders from all responsible national institutions as well as the Municipality of Sintra in its Board. It is further recalled that the company is in charge of the major palaces and parks of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra, to which the Palace of Pena and the hotel of Seteais have recently been added, corresponding to 40% of the territory of the World Heritage property
Based on its Action Plan 2007-2009 presented to the World Heritage Committee at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007), the responsible site-managing entity of PSML reports on a number of activities implemented over the last 2 years:
a) Legal and institutional framework
PSML has started a coherent analysis of land-use planning instruments, including an analysis of the forest management plan, in view of reviewing the boundaries of the property, delineating an urban development strategy for the World Heritage cultural landscape and its buffer and transition zones and defining their articulation with the protection requirements of the property;
b) State of conservation of the palaces and parks
PSML reports on continued conservation and restoration works carried out, which include rehabilitation of buildings in the parks, cleaning of forests and restoration of major palaces, partly funded through private grants;
c) Opening and interpretation of the parks and palaces
PSML reports on the increase in visitor numbers over the last years, about the development of site interpretation plans for visitors and additional tools being developed for improved visitor management.
While being a public company, it is noted that PSML is required to raise its own funds according to private company-principles. Mechanisms such as maximizing resources by increasing visitor numbers bear a considerable risk of over-exploiting the parks and palaces. The goal of PSML to increase visitation of its palaces and parks in the future has to be seen as potentially detrimental to their quality, and should therefore be reconsidered.
While there are commendable efforts to attract additional funding from Foundations and other sources for the rehabilitation and restoration of parks and palaces, in order to comply for example with the necessity for fire-prevention measures, it is however essential to ensure that any rehabilitation and preservation works be based on thorough scientific evidence and research.
It also needs to be underlined that the State Party report only covers activities carried out on a smaller part of the World Heritage property (40% of its territory), while no information is provided on activities and developments in the remaining part of it.
The analysis of the different territorial planning instruments carried out by PSML complements and updates the analysis done by the mission team in March 2006, showing that there is a variety of relevant legally binding documents which are not sufficiently coordinated.
The World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and IUCN consider that the coordination of all responsible entities continues to be deficient, bearing a continuous risk of incoherent decision-making. It is therefore suggested to set up a Steering Committee for the World Heritage property functioning as a platform for all stakeholders and as a clearing-house for World Heritage-related matters and decisions on the entire territory of the World Heritage property and its buffer-zone.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies further inform that the municipality of Sintra has engaged into setting up a cooperation network with other World Heritage cultural landscapes, and to that purpose hosted an international conference in September 2008.
As emphasized by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in their reports in 2006 and 2007, continuous political and financial commitment as well as enhanced coordination mechanisms are required to ensure the coherence of the conservation work in the different parts of this World Heritage cultural landscape. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies are concerned about the continued lack of such coordination mechanisms, requested since the inscription of the property on the World Heritage List, representing an ongoing potential danger to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.
Lastly, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies have been made aware of the continued rapidly growing urban encroachment both from the Lisbon area (neighboring municipalities) and from urbanization of the coastal areas (on the territory of the Sintra municipality) with increased traffic and large-scale infrastructure. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies express concern about their impact on the Outstanding Universal Value and the integrity of the property and recommend sending a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/IUCN reactive monitoring mission to assess the overall state of conservation of the property.