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Inadequate conservation of historic and protected buildings

The Ministry of the Environment does not adequately follow up its overriding national responsibility for historic and protected buildings. The weaknesses uncovered in an investigation by the Office of the Auditor General show that these buildings can be lost, and that there is a risk that the national goals in this field will not be reached by 2020, as the Storting expects. ‘The consequences are that the community can lose important sources of knowledge, experiences and identity,’ says Auditor General Jørgen Kosmo.
Published 5/7/2009 1:10 PM

Document No 3:9 (2008–2009) The Office of the Auditor General’s investigation into how the Ministry of the Environment exercises its national responsibility for protected and historic buildings was submitted to the Norwegian Parliament, the Storting, on 7 May.

The investigation shows that the Ministry of the Environment does not have sufficient management information in the field of building conservation. The Ministry and the Directorate for Cultural Heritage lack information about the loss of historic buildings, about listed buildings overall, the condition of listed buildings and about which Sami buildings are automatically protected.

Moreover, the Ministry lacks information about how the Directorate for Cultural Heritage, the Sami Parliament, the county authorities and municipalities use the instruments available to them.

This lack of management information means that the Ministry does not havean adequate basis for evaluating whether goals are achieved and for giving the necessary management signals to the public administration. There is thus a great risk that the goals in this area will not be reached. ‘We expect the Ministry of the Environment to give priority to this work in the time ahead,’ says Auditor General Jørgen Kosmo.

The investigation shows that those responsible for the management of the cultural heritage make little use of the instruments in the Planning and Building Act and the Cultural Heritage Act. The Directorate for Cultural Heritage and the county authorities make little use of objections and appeals to prevent the loss of historic buildings.

Moreover, initiatives are seldom taken to issue permanent or temporary protection orders for buildings. The case processing in protection cases takes a long time, and the cultural heritage administration has an extensive backlog of cases. The investigation shows that there are clear signs of decay and damage to listed buildings.

The investigation also shows that it is unclear how the provisions in the Cultural Heritage Act stipulating that all Sami buildings that are more than a hundred years old are automatically protected should be understood. ‘We expect the work of clarifying the use of the act to be given priority,’ says Mr Kosmo.

In its response to the Office of the Auditor General’s report, the Ministry of the Environment states that the timing of the report is convenient and that the findings from the investigation will form an important basis for further work.

The deferral of public access to documents prepared by or for the Office of the Auditor General in connection with Doc. no 3:9 (2008-2009), cf. the Act relating to the Office of the Auditor General section 18 second paragraph, is hereby set aside.

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