The main purpose of protecting an entire cultural environment is to maintain it as an integrated whole and to preserve the character of the area. A protection order for a cultural landscape applies to outdoor areas (farmland, gardens, streets) and to the exterior of any buildings, but not inside the buildings.
Eight cultural environments have been protected
Protection of a cultural environment pursuant to section 20 of the Cultural Heritage Act is a long and complicated procedure, ending with a decision by the King in Council.
So far, these procedures have been completed for eight cultural environments, and they have now received legal protection. The eight are:
Many factors affect cultural environments
A cultural environment is altered by changes to or disturbance of only one of its elements, as well as by larger-scale development that affects the whole area.
Wear and tear from visitors and certain types of commercial activities may result in changes that in some cases damage a cultural environment. The character of such environments may be altered by reconstruction and alteration of the exterior of buildings, or by changes in the way buildings, land and the cultural landscape are used.
For example, a cultural environment may lose its original character if traditional activities such as old farming techniques are discontinued. In addition, when a cultural environment falls into disuse, one result is often that buildings and the landscape are not properly maintained. This reduces the value of the area.
Protection, management and information
A protection order sets out restrictions on access by visitors and on the kinds of activities that are permitted in the cultural environment if they may run counter to the purpose of the protection. In addition, it lays down how the cultural landscape is to be managed and how the buildings are to be maintained.
As a general rule, a permit is required for all exterior construction work and land management that is not considered to form part of ordinary upkeep. The general principle is that original elements are to be retained wherever possible, and that maintenance is to be based on original or traditional techniques, design and materials.
An overall plan for an area protected as a cultural environment is often needed to ensure that all the elements are maintained as part of an integrated whole. Management plans are therefore generally drawn up in addition to the protection order.
Successful conservation of cultural environments depends on cooperation between the cultural heritage authorities and landowners, municipal authorities, the business sector, voluntary organisations and others. Information on why an area is valuable is therefore an important tool both during the process of achieving protection for an area and during the long-term practical work of maintaining it.