Berlusconi to rape Veneto: one of the most disastrous planning moves of the twentieth century was Mussolini's decision to drive the Via dei Fori Imperiale through the ancient classical fora in the heart of Rome. Now, the Berlusconi government threatens to carry out an equally vile desecration--of the precious and tranquil landscape tapestry of the Veneto.
Plans for a motorway running south from Vicenza through the UNESCO-designated world heritage site of the Veneto plain are being forced through by the Berlusconi government. The motorway will cut through a mysterious, predominantly flat rural landscape, at present largely dominated by the villas of Andrea Palladio and his successors. No less than seven entry and exit points are included in the 54km of the Valdastico Sud.
Objectors to the project point out that damage will not be limited to the scar of the motor-way itself, but will extend fungus-like around it, as typical contemporary Italian industrial developments of dumb un-coordinated shedding spread out from it. Notwithstanding over-provision of cappanoni (huge anonymous sheds) in the area, the motorway development company has applied for 400 hectares of industrial expansion, and local councils on the route are demanding further possibilities for erecting sheds (which are subsidised by tax breaks).
Opposition to the Valdastico Sud has been led by the Italian Ministry of Culture, and the national and local Sovrintendenze (the official monuments services for archaeology and heritage). The official Environment Commission objected, and 23 of its 36 members were sacked by the Berlusconi government. Planning permission was approved by the newly reconstructed commission; legal challenges have ensued. At local level, the Regione Veneto has failed in its statutory duty to draw up landscape plans for protecting sensitive and valuable landscapes.
An international challenge to the proposal is being mounted by Save Europe's Heritage, which points out that the motorway will cause irreparable damage to the ecology and topography of the quiet landscape reticulated by elaborate canal systems that were initiated in Roman times. It will also threaten the environs of several important villas, as well as the fortified medieval town of Montagnana.
Marcus Binney, chairman of Save Europe's Heritage said, 'For years, Italy has set an inspiring example to the world in the protection of its great buildings. The Sovrintendenze is among the most professional and respected bodies of its kind in Europe. Yet the Italian government has brushed aside its advice and legitimate concerns. Italy is thus failing the whole world by allowing the crude devastation of one of the cradles of European architecture and landscape beauty ... The motorway will blight dozens of fine historic buildings.'
Save Europe's Heritage further argues that transport authorities have questioned the need for the Valdastico Sud. The committee calls for an independent assessment of the breach of European Environmental procedures involved in granting permission for the motorway, and it wants to see both the Italian government and the Regione Veneto putting a stop to random development of cappanoni by drawing up enforceable plans for the protection of the ancient fen landscape. Further information about the campaign can be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org, and from the organization's report Unforgivable Assault on a World Heritage Site, available for [pounds sterling]5, including postage, from Save Europe's Heritage, 70 Cow-cross Street, London EC1M 6EJ.
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|Publication:||The Architectural Review|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2003|
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