The current World Heritage status of Helsinki's naval fortress island of Suomenlinna, awarded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), could be at risk. The problem is that the considerable number of construction projects and planned residential areas would change the overall scenery of a protection zone around the fortress island. The matter was first reported by the commercial television channel Nelonen's news programme Nelosen Uutiset.
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Suomenlinna Naval Fortress Construction projectsHannu Penttila, Deputy Mayor of Helsinki in charge of City Planning and Real Estate, nevertheless does not see any reason to change the current construction plans because of the concerns voiced by UNESCO. "For one reason or another, a reasonable part of the Helsinki city centre has been determined to form a part of the protection zone, but to this day, new buildings have been planned in the area, and the same is to continue even in the future", Penttila notes.
Penttila points out that the protection zone defined for the World Heritage Site by UNESCO has nothing to do with the Land Use and Building Act that directs planning in Finland on three levels: the provincial land use plan, the master plan, and the town plan.
Lasse Mannisto (National Coalition Party), the Chairman of the City of Helsinki Planning Board, also says that even though there is reason to respect the protection zone, the fact will not affect the Hernesaari construction project that is situated within the zone.
"We naturally have to respect history, but the distance between the island of Hernesaari and the Fortress of Suomenlinna is so great that in my view it [the construction project] does not affect the fortress island", Mannisto argues.
Finland has applied for a reduction of the size of the protection zone in order that it would only apply to the islands closest to Suomenlinna. UNESCO has not approved the proposal.
The protection zone includes the islands of Hernesaari and Santahamina, the neighbourhood of Katajanokka, and the coastal area between the Market Square and the park of Kaivopuisto.
The reduction was applied for, as UNESCO's general instructions pertaining to protection zones have become more specific. The application was initiated by the National Board of Antiquities, and submitted to UNESCO by the Ministry of Education and Culture.
The initiative had no connection with Helsinki's construction plans. "The protection zone we applied for was roughly equal to the area that has been defined as nationally significant cultural surroundings", reports Paivi Salonen, Counsellor for Cultural Affairs at the Ministry of Education and Culture. The decision made by UNESCO was received at the turn of August and September.