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Local spatial planning versus UNESCO WHL Management Plans: a comparison of two cases in Sicily


This paper aims to investigate the relationship between tourism and planning in UNESCO World Heritage List (WHL) sites, with special reference to the relation between Management Plans and other (local and regional) planning instruments and policies able to influence the promotion of sustainable and responsible development. This will be explored through a confrontation between two important tourist locations in Sicily: Agrigento (the Valley of the Temples) and the Aeolian Islands, which have both been recognized as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. The analysis of these case studies will point out the challenge of integrating different management and planning regimes – which mainly refer to a performative model – in a (still) very conformative planning system. The article will show how supranational policies often lose their efficacy in relation to regional and local planning systems, being in opposition to such systems. The selection of the two Sicilian case studies is particularly appropriate under this perspective, as they represent significant or even extreme examples of the gap between the supranational performative approach of the UNESCO WHL MP model and the conformative nature of the Sicilian planning system; this is due to the different nature and characteristics of the Sicilian planning law and regulations and the UNESCO WHL MP guidelines. The comparison, proposed in the paper, will explore the influence and mutual relationships between the two UNESCO sites and the planning instruments and policies. The main questions of the paper are: In which way the above mentioned framework of planning instruments takes into account the UNESCO sites? What is the role of planning instruments and policies to facilitate integration and reconciliation? Which are the strategies implemented by the planning system and its regulations in order to manage and improve the tourist flows, according to a sustainable planning approach? On the other hand, does the UNESCO heritage label (and its related policies and management plans) guarantee international and global control over local changes and planning decisions? The paper will underline how the interrelation among the WHL MP and other (local and regional) plans is on the one hand necessary and on the other hand problematic, due to the diversity of planning systems in each country. Consequently, the paper will consider the legal implications for local planning systems due to the fact that each national and local reality has to spot the most adequate configuration for WHL MP, in the light of existing laws and specific cases. The paper will also show the difficult integration between planning instruments operating in the same area, but managed by different actors, with different time schedules, resources and law effectiveness.