Activists fight to save Austria’s heritage

Campaigners are calling for urgent conservation of historic buildings in Austria which they say are at risk of being demolished if they are not better protected by the state.

Activists fight to save Austria's heritage
Schloss Pottendorf and many other historic buildings are at risk. Photo: Initiative Denkmalschutz

There are currently around 35,000 buildings under a preservation order in Austria and a further 30,000 are classified as "sensitive", but on average conservation is only carried out on 220 of those sites every year due to constraints on financial and human resources.

"If it carries on like this, it will take 130 years until all sites are actually under protection," explains Markus Landerer from Initiative Denkmalschutz (Conservation Initiative). 

Now a petition has been launched by campaigners from 37 different conservation 'citizens initiatives', asking Culture Minister Josef Ostermayer "to work out a package of measures that would ensure our cultural heritage experiences a better and more extensive protection".

The activists are also calling for entire areas to be protected rather than individual buildings, which they hope would reduce the risk of sites being demolished when they should have been conserved.

"In recent years a number of buildings have been demolished that were either in a protection zone or should have been in one," says Landerer.

Controversial cases include the replacement of the so-called 'Hopf-Haus' building in Kagran with a multi-storey residential building and the recent demolishing of four Heurigen houses in Neustift am Walde.

"Unfortunately it happens again and again that houses are demolished when they are in a protection zone." says Landerer. "Politicians promised a crackdown but little has happened. There are no sanctions in the law."

Responding to the petition, Ostermayer said conservation can be complex due to the many different authorities involved but added that he would like to create a framework of objectives for protection, similar to those already in use by an EU conservation programme. 

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