EASTERN-Slovak town Bardejov may lose its place on the UNESCO World Heritage List because of ongoing construction of a shopping mall and a pedestrian overpass near its historical centre. The town’s representatives, however, have accused the media of waging a politically motivated campaign over the issue.

Bardejov is a small but exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a fortified mediaeval town that typifies urbanisation in the local region, according to UNESCO. Among its notable features is a small Jewish quarter with an 18th-century synagogue. The town was added to the list in 2000.

Even though the shopping mall is not being built directly in the Town Conservation Reserve, the historic character of the UNESCO site will be violated by a pedestrian overpass, which is to be connected to the second floor of the mall, the TASR newswire wrote.

The Periodic Report on the State of the Preservation of World Heritage Sites in Slovakia clearly states that the commercial construction will violate the unique urban fabric, according to Prešov Regional Monuments Board Director Eva Semanová. The Bardejov town council, however, gave the shopping mall project the green light and even bypassed the Monuments Board in the process.

Bardejov Mayor’s Office head Jozef Guliga said that since the shopping mall will not be located within the Town Conservation Reserve, including the historical town centre and Jewish suburb, or any of the registered archaeological sites, there was no need to consult the Monuments Board.

“We have not received any information or indications yet that Bardejov would be removed from the UNESCO list,” Guliga said, as quoted by TASR. “We assume that the overpass to the shopping mall will offer inhabitants as well as visitors of the town a better and more compact view of the town’s conservation area.”

Semanová, however, says that, for example, a café planned for the second floor of the complex will be at the same level as the square and will obstruct views of the church tower, as reported by TASR.

The Monuments Board has already taken the necessary steps to block the shopping mall project in its current form. However, it needs to wait for UNESCO’s stance, which might take time; the report is currently being translated and will be sent to Paris no sooner than October.

“If UNESCO says this will really have a negative impact, Bardejov will be placed on the list of endangered sites,” Semanová told TASR, adding that in this case they can call for the owner of the building to remedy the situation. If this does not happen, the town can be removed from the list.

Meanwhile, Bardejov Mayor Boris Hanuščák decried media reports that appeared in connection with the UNESCO inscription, saying he will consider legal steps to prevent what he called a “politically motivated deceitful campaign” and “unscrupulous damage to the reputation and interests of the town and its inhabitants”, as reported by the Sme daily.