Istanbul’s Fatih Municipality seizes more authority in construction on historic peninsula

Istanbul’s Fatih Municipality seizes more authority in construction on historic peninsula

Istanbul’s Fatih Municipality seizes more authority in construction on historic peninsula

DHA Photo

Istanbul’s historic peninsula has come under renewed threat after the Fatih District Municipality issued a ruling to give itself full authorization in executions of construction projects across broad swathes of the peninsula. Opposition voices claim that the motivation behind the move is to further exploit the land to generate income for the Justice and Development Party (AKP)-run municipality. 

Land on the peninsula is currently categorized into primary, secondary and tertiary historical areas, and with the new regulation the Fatih District Municipality’s permission will be sufficient to execute construction projects in the peninsula’s secondary and tertiary areas. Previously, the municipality needed approval from preservation boards to start construction projects in areas of cultural and natural value, daily Cumhuriyet reported on Sept. 12.

The decision was approved with the majority vote of Fatih Municipality Assembly members from the AKP. The Republican People’s Party (CHP) assembly members voted against the decision, with the CHP’s Fazıl Uğur Soylu claiming that the decision was made to provide additional funding to the municipality. 

The new regulation was passed despite cases ongoing into the execution of mass construction project plans in multiple places on the peninsula.

In mid-July, the Istanbul 2nd Administrative Court annulled a large number of construction project plans that risk damaging the fabric of the historic peninsula.

The Fatih Municipality, along with the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB) and the Culture and Tourism Ministry, objected to the court’s decision and demanded an additional expert report in August.

On Sept. 8, the municipality assembly members from the AKP proposed a new bill to make the Fatih Municipality fully authorized to start construction in secondary and tertiary areas of the peninsula.

The move came less than a month after a mass construction project plans stirred controversy on protection of the authenticity and the original fabric of the historical peninsula at the heart of Istanbul. 

Also, in late April, the Istanbul 2nd Administrative Court annulled more than half of the items of a 61-item construction project plan covering a large part of Istanbul’s historical peninsula based on a 286-page expert report on major projects such as an under-Bosphorus tunnel pass with access roads running along a historical train station, a wholesale fish market, a huge bus park area and a large garden by the historical walls of the old city.  

The court annulled the project plan of the Eurasia Tunnel Pass, an underwater tunnel project slated to pass through various parts of the historical peninsula, which the report said was designed more to ease the flow of vehicle traffic on the peninsula rather than protect the city’s silhouette.

The court also annulled the execution of a project plan to construct recreational areas and several open-air sports centers across a vast area including the Yedikule Gardens, a large green space along the old city’s walls that is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The court said the project was not in accordance with the historical identity of the old city walls.   

Stating the construction conditions and purposes were not clearly stated for an area registered as a municipal service area, the court annulled another project plan to build a marina on the area of the Kumkapı Wholesale Fish Market, which was demolished on the grounds that it lay on an access road leading out to the Eurasia Tunnel Pass.

The court also changed from “commercial area” to “green area” the status of the Topkapı Bus Park, a large area in the Şehremini neighborhood in Istanbul’s Fatih district, which was previously used as a parking area by the Istanbul Electric Tram and Tunnel (IETT), a mass transit company operating in Istanbul.  

Among the project plans partly annulled by the court were the Sirkeci Terminal, engineer’s workshops used by Turkey’s public railroads company in Fatih’s Yedikule neighborhood, the Yedikule Gashouse, several would-be carparks across Fatih, a student dormitory and technical schools inside the old city walls.

The Sirkeci Terminal, a historical train station which no longer functions and remains idle due to a permanent change to Istanbul’s railroad systems, was ordered to be used for cultural purposes by the court.