The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB) has approved a change in its zoning plan for the city’s historical peninsula, despite objection from its local urban planning office, which claimed the new regulation would lead to “irreversible” outcomes.
With its council’s majority approval, the İBB on Feb. 17 approved the zoning plan change for the historical peninsula of Istanbul, which hosts the city’s signature buildings like the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, although the municipality’s urban planning office pressed its objection on the grounds that the change could harm the identity of the area. The office has also said their concerns had not been taken into account.
The change concerns Istanbul’s Fatih district and stipulates that the tall buildings, which were erected previously despite its violation of the city’s silhouette, would be recognized as “vested right” and that empty spaces between buildings would enable their use in line with the demands of property owners rather than the benefit of the public. The new regulation also brings changes to the content of the “protection zones” of the district, which was once historically one of the city’s richest and most diverse areas with locals of different religious and ethnic backgrounds.
Upon the objection of the urban planning office, which also argued that the change in the zoning plan would lead to “new and uncontrolled constructions,” the municipality council’s member from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Hüseyin Sağ, thanked public employees working for the office, calling them “brave civil servants who loved their country and protected their city.”
Speaking in favor of the changes, the municipality’s public works’ commission head from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Hadi Diler, said the area was not under threat and increasing intensity, but the change was for the “benefit of the peninsula and is solution-oriented.”
In reaction to Diler’s comments, another council member from the CHP, Ülkü Koçar, said it was wrong to approve the plan despite objection from the urban planning office and urged members “not to ruin the historical peninsula.”
Meanwhile in late December 2016, the decision by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Council sparked debate on the restoration, reinforcement and maintenance projects of around 50,000 buildings located on the city’s historical peninsula, which are situated on around 10,000 registered architectures. The decision said it will no longer seek for the approval of the Cultural and Natural Heritage Conservation Board.
Upon the decision, CHP
Istanbul deputy and parliamentary group deputy chair Gürsel Tekin has said he would carry the change to the Cultural Heritage Preservation Board regarding historical buildings in Istanbul’s old quarter to UNESCO.