The State Party provided its report on 10 May 2008, thus limiting the ability to consider information presented therein.
The State Party provided a copy of a newly completed Soufrière Region Integrated Development Plan (the plan) in March 2008. The plan includes a detailed analysis of the property and its surrounding areas. It proposes five main zones, or policy areas, within the property against which specific development control policies would be applied, taking into consideration the property’s outstanding universal value while at the same time recognizing the existence of extensive private land holdings within its boundaries and concomitant development pressures. The zones include: (i) a rigorous “no-construction” zone, which includes the actual volcanic Pitons and the steep and highly visible ridge of land joining the two; (ii) the sulphur springs zone, which protects unique geological features; (iii) a coast area zone, which permits tourism development, with certain building restrictions; (iv) the remaining lands within the property, where organic residential development and agricultural infrastructure is permitted, again with some restrictions and (v) the marine zone, restricting development there. The plan has not yet been formally incorporated into State Party planning processes.
The plan substantiates concerns that there are considerable pressures for residential and tourism related development in the area, particularly on coastal sites, and that all current planning applications are on hold. Potential developments include villa development in the area above the Jalousie resort, which is located between the two Pitons including refurbishment and new building activity in the Jalousie Resort, villa development on the Beau Estate, a possible marina and hotel resort complex at Baron Drive and a boutique / green hotel at L’Ivrogne. The report also notes that there are existing developments at Malgretoute which lie within the part of the PMA currently termed the ‘no-build zone’, and considers that there needs to be a stronger enforcement policy to ensure that similar developments do not occur. There is also no mention of what measures are to be implemented to address these illegal constructions.
The plan reviews the external boundary of the PMA and no changes are proposed. However, following a detailed review of the internal zones of the property a number of recommendations have been made to provide an equitable balance between development and conservation, permit certain tourism-related development within strict environmental controls, and to provide opportunities for local people with regard to housing and employment all of which the report considers would not place the World Heritage status at risk.
In the view of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, the Plan is a pragmatic response to the realities of the PMA – a natural World Heritage property inscribed despite the presence of important resort developments and significant residential development within its boundaries. These and other concerns had been noted by IUCN at the time of the inscription. However, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN are concerned that the level of development within the property may set inappropriate precedents as to what should be expected of a property inscribed under criterion (vii) of the World Heritage Convention. It is also clear by the number of development applications under consideration in the short time since inscription that development pressures over time risk eroding its outstanding universal value unless a very clear and rigorous planning process is put into place immediately, strictly enforced and closely monitored.
The State Party provided a follow-up report in response to the World Heritage Committee Decision 31 COM 7B.42, received by the World Heritage Centre on 10 May 2008. The report indicates that the plan is currently being considered by the Cabinet of Ministers for adoption, along with a proposal to declare the property as a Special Enforcement Area, which would reportedly deter illegal and unauthorized development. However, it is not clear how, should it be adopted, planning and development decision making processes will be articulated with the plan.
Three points of concern are noted by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN:
- The plan is a consultant’s report and has no implications on planning processes unless its provisions are formally recognized by the State Party.
- The plan does not make clear the extent of development and landscape impacts that might result within the property, and hence, the extent of further development should be more clearly specified in order to assess the acceptability of the plan and to track its implementation. In this regard, baseline data precisely indicating the current level of development in the property would be helpful.
- Any further development within the PMA not strictly conforming to an agreed planning policy should be regarded as providing a clear basis to recommend inscription of the property in the List of World Heritage in Danger.
IUCN has received additional information on the status of the management of the property, and concludes that the current management of the property needs to be strengthened. Areas noted of particular significance include:
· Enhancing the role of the management committee for the property and the level of consultation and engagement with the community and stakeholders;
· Capacity building of the existing management body which includes training, particularly in participatory approaches and conflict management;
· Identification, development and use of creative means of financing the management of the PMA; consideration should be given to having appropriate management staff and stakeholders take the on-line “Business Planning for Sustainable Financing of Protected Areas” course recently developed with the support of the World Heritage Fund;
· Encouraging development outside the property and enhanced support for sustainable business enterprises and entrepreneurs outside the property; and
· Sustainable tourism development including an appropriate marketing plan, prepared in partnership with the St Lucia Tourism Board.
There are also some clear opportunities to forge new alliances in support of effective management of the property. The new GEF Small Grant's Programme managed by UNDP in St Lucia has as its Programme Focus to “contribute to the effective management of the Pitons Management Area World Heritage Site”. IUCN is also developing a new regional Caribbean programme (IUCN Caribbean Initiative) and this provides the potential opportunity to provide support to the PMA. IUCN-WCPA Caribbean has also indicated that it is prepared to provide some technical assistance to the Government of St Lucia and the PMA with regards to management of the PMA.
The PMA has drawn on a capacity building exchange with the Dorset and East Devon Coast World Heritage Site supported by the United Kingdom authorities. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note this as an example of good practice that could be developed further as part of the establishment of effective protection and management of the PMA.