Heritage Impact Assessment
Old Rauma, located on the west coast of Finland, was inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1991 as an excellent example of a northern European wooden town and urbanism. The World Heritage site of Old Rauma is carefully defined by the boundaries of the old wooden town. It is surrounded by an extensive buffer zone containing buildings of various sizes and ages. The land use plans and the land protection in Old Rauma and its buffer zone are based on national legislation.
A new shopping centre has been zoned within the buffer zone, very close to the boundary of the World Heritage site of Old Rauma. This Heritage Impact Assessment discusses the shopping centre and its impact on Old Rauma’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), which was retrospectively adopted in 2014. The shopping centre’s local detailed plan was approved on 30 October 2018, and a building permit was granted in January 2020.
The Heritage Impact Assessment commenced in spring 2019 and was conducted using guidelines issued by ICOMOS. The World Heritage site of Visby was used as a point of reference, as multiple Heritage Impact Assessments had been carried out for various projects in the area, and it provided examples of useful aspects to consider. The Heritage Impact Assessment was based on the materials used to prepare the shopping centre’s local detailed plan as well as the component master plan concerning Old Rauma and its buffer zone. In addition, a commercial survey was commissioned to evaluate how the construction of new shopping centres have impacted similar-sized cities in Finland.
An assessment was made of two alternative scenarios. The first represented a hypothetical scenario where the assessment was conducted before the shopping centre project commenced, and the second represented a scenario where the local detailed plan had already been approved before the assessment and the building permit was granted during the assessment process.
The Outstanding Universal Value of Old Rauma concerns the actual World Heritage site of Old Rauma, and the buffer zone is only mentioned in the integrity section; there is no clear description of the buffer zone’s significance or value. According to our interpretation, the green areas are an important element of the buffer zone, situated right next to Old Rauma, so the way the environment next to the Kanal is used in the project plays a part in preserving the area’s OUV.
With regard to authenticity, only the functional value “Old Rauma has preserved its function as a residential area and commercial centre” could be compromised by the shopping centre project if the shops in Old Rauma are unable to compete with the new shopping centre. The nature of the project’s impact (positive or negative) depends on various aspects that the project and the related operators cannot solely be held responsible for. Another process took place in Old Rauma even before the shopping centre project, with the aim of turning more remote commercial premises into residential premises. With regard to integrity values, the town’s landscape will be affected by the shopping centre, as the building will have the largest gross floor area in the buffer zone.
In the hypothetical scenario wherein the Heritage Impact Assessment was conducted before or in conjunction with the drafting of the land use plan, the shopping centre project could not have been considered to compromise the OUV of Old Rauma in such a way that would cause the cancellation of the project. When conducted simultaneously with the local detailed plan work, the assessment could have explored different options related to the appearance and design of the shopping centre more extensively, as well as the changes the project would make to the surrounding urban structure. The current shopping centre project has some impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of Old Rauma, particularly on the ratio between residential and commercial premises and on the town landscape within the buffer zone. However, the shopping centre project has not compromised Old Rauma’s World Heritage value. It is important to keep developing Old Rauma and its services while the shopping centre is being built.