New omnibus bill to protect Turkish skylines

A new bill is being proposed to protect skylines in Turkey. (Photo: Today's Zaman)

July 11, 2013, Thursday/ 17:06:00

Turkey's Parliament passed an amendment to an omnibus bill on Wednesday, adding measures to protect historic skylines across the nation from uncontrolled urbanization, according to the Sabah daily.

The new measures would transfer authority over zoning in Turkish cities to the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization and set up aesthetic architectural commissions in Turkish municipalities.

According to the new bill, builders will have to submit electronic copies of plans and permits to the Environment and Urbanization Ministry, which will have the authority to issue building permits, shut down construction sites, seal off buildings and demolish buildings it deems eyesores.

Construction experts say unplanned and rapid urbanization in İstanbul, the largest city in the country, is eating away at the city's historic skyline, which they say has suffered irreparable damage.

In 2012, high-rise buildings erected in the Fatih district adjacent to the old city marred the skyline of İstanbul, blocking views of Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace and the Sultanahmet Mosque. Construction projects have divided İstanbul, with many residents opposing a mosque on Çamlıca Hill and a new bridge being built over the Golden Horn. A sit-in to block a development in Taksim Square quickly escalated into a nationwide protest movement against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who opponents say implements his policies with little regard for the wishes of local residents.

Erdoğan, however, expressed dismay in March at the continuing construction of high-rise buildings in many districts of İstanbul and urged those who think only of “stone and concrete” when it comes to city planning to re-evaluate their ideas and create cities that have “soul and direction.” The prime minister went on to warn mayors against unplanned and rapid urbanization.

About a month ago, the İstanbul 4th Administrative Court ordered the demolition of skyscrapers that it ruled harmed the city's skyline in İstanbul's Zeytinburnu district.

The construction of skyscrapers has stirred public outrage, and some activists and intellectuals argue that high-rise buildings mar İstanbul's historic silhouette.

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