[JURIST] The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany [official website, in German] Wednesday ruled [opinion, in German] that a February 2005 referendum approving the construction of a bridge across the Dresden Elbe Valley [UNESCO backgrounder], a UNESCO World Heritage Site [official website], takes precedence over the objections of the city council because it was a direct expression of residents' democratic choice. In July of last year, the council voted 39-29 to approve a measure requesting the Mayor of Dresden to suspend the construction of the bridge [UNESCO report] because the 18-km long valley might lose its status after the World Heritage Committee threatened to remove the valley [UNESCO report] from the World Heritage List.
UNESCO says that "no site has ever been struck off the World Heritage List," which currently declares 812 properties to be of "outstanding universial value." In issuing its decision, the court noted that the 1972 World Heritage Convention [PDF text] "fully [respects] the sovereignty of the States on whose territory the cultural and natural heritage... is situated." AP has more.