The property of Bordeaux, Port of the Moon was inscribed on the World Heritage List by the World Heritage Committee at its 31st session (Christchurch 2007). However, very shortly afterwards, two major river crossing problems arose, threatening the outstanding universal value of the property : the first concerns one of the wet docks of the Port due to the destruction of the metal Pertuis swing bridge, in December 2007, and the other concerns the bridge project across the River Garonne.
These questions were the subject of letters from the World Heritage Centre to the State Party dated 25 October, 9 November, 26 November, 17 December 2007, 8 February and 11 March 2008.
Located in the core zone of the inscribed property, the metal Pertuis swing bridge was, at the time of inscription, considered to be a rare work of art, and apparently the last surviving testimony of this type of construction in France. ICOMOS judged it to be an engineering feat of uncontested value, situated in the central area of the wet docks, and part of the ensemble declared as World Heritage. It was therefore part of the outstanding universal value of Bordeaux, Port of the Lune.
Technical solutions to adapt this historic construction to traffic demands were outlined and they appear to respond to the needs of contemporary transportation, in particular tramway lines. Nevertheless, an extremely rapid decision for the destruction of the bridge was taken and carried out by the local authorities in the weeks following the inscription, without any prior impact study on the outstanding universal value of the property and contravening the management and conservation commitments undertaken at the time of inscription.
An important project for the construction of a bridge across the Garonne between the Bacalan and Bastide quarters, directly affecting the inscribed property, was only very superficially referred to during the nomination process, and no study on the impact of this project on the integrity of the river and urban landscape was provided. This project, which according to some sources, is not a recent one, was the subject of additional information provided by the State Party in June 2007 to the World Heritage Centre, as an annex to the management plan of the property (additional action plan). No alternative to the bridge has been presented.
The project for the drawbridge across the Garonne aims at providing a prolongation of terrestrial traffic, between the two river banks, to the level of the boulevards upstream of the Port and at the river mouth of the city. The dimensions envisaged for the mobile section are substantial in order to permit the passage of large ships: the horizontal part is planned to measure 110 m with a raised capacity of 55 m above water level. Four fixed pylons in the centre of the river, each one measuring 60 m, would support the mechanism, with a width of 450 m at that point.
The visual impact on the Port entrance and on its architectural and townscape, central to criteria defining the outstanding universal value of the property, appears critical, but remains to be specified. The bridge would consequently comprise a monumental gateway in the heart of the open area when entering the city by way of the river, thus totally modifying the integrity of the present townscape
The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS consider that the impact studies on the outstanding universal value of the property were not carried out before the destruction of the Pertuis Bridge, and that they are very insufficient for the drawbridge project across the River Garonne. The extreme haste in the destruction of the Pertuis Bridge gives the impression that this was already planned by the local authorities during the evaluation process of the property. The active consultation procedures regarding these urban projects, guaranteeing the conservation of the property and its outstanding universal value, in conformity with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, have not been respected.
By letter of 11 March 2008, the World Heritage Centre requested detailed information from the State Party to evaluate the impact of the proposed bridge project across the Garonne, or any other alternative projects, on the outstanding universal value of the property and its visual integrity.
On 15 May 2008, the World Heritage Centre received information from the Mayor of Bordeaux concerning an impact study carried out in the framework of the bridge construction project with some photographic simulations, presenting the insertion of the bridge at the property. This documentation has since been evaluated by ICOMOS.
The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS consider that the impact study provided is not set in any context : no mention is made of when the study was executed, nor my whom. It would be preferable that « the complete studies having led to the choice of this project » as indicated in the Mayor’s letter, also be communicated.
Moreover, on 15 May 2008, the World Heritage Centre received a letter from a group of seven associations concerned about soundings and work already begun at the site. Confirmation of this very important information on the part of the State Party would necessary.