Zoning plans remain stalled

A zoning and land-use plan to protect heritage buildings and Yangon’s most important religious site, Shwedagon Pagoda, remains locked in endless rounds of discussions more than a year after the laws were proposed.

Twenty Yangon townships have been earmarked for heritage protection under the as-yet-unwritten plans, a Yangon City Development Committee official said last week.

“We have recently discussed with organisation partners the drafting of the zoning law and then [once finalised] we will submit the matter to state authorities,” Department of City Planning and Land Administration deputy head U Toe Aung told The Myanmar Times.

However the proposed legislation would need to pass through several echelons of government control including the state president, and the ministry of culture – a process that could take months or years as modern and high-rise development in Yangon continues to skyrocket.

“Six months ago we conducted a workshop to discuss [protecting] the views of Shwedagon Pagoda and it surroundings,” U Toe Aung said.

Under the draft zoning plan, the popular Dagon area is to have a maximum building height of 62 feet (about 19 metres), or 5-6 storeys. Building heights in the outskirts of the area would be capped at 190 feet above sea level, U Toe Aung said.

Development is governed by colonial-era municipal bylaws, which do not provide for building height limits or heritage building protection.

Despite this, construction in Dagon and other heritage areas for buildings above these height limitations marches ahead.

Yangon Heritage Trust director Daw Moe Moe Lwin told The Myanmar Times an enforceable zoning plan could not come soon enough to protect heritage buildings in downtown and greater Yangon. “There is lots of economic pressure to demolish dilapidated buildings,” Daw Moe Moe Lwin said.

The zoning plan and land use strategy would govern height, land usage (retail, residential or industrial) and delineate how much of a plot must be developed.

For downtown areas this would be about 90 percent, for outer suburbs like Golden Valley, plot development may be set at 30pc or 40pc of land to maintain the character of these townships.

“Exclusive residential areas with large blocks of land and grand houses are being affected by subdivision. This needs protection,” she said.

The zoning plan would detail township-specific parameters for development and renovation, including building-specific provisions for structures identified as heritage.

In principle, heritage buildings are those built before 1960, she said.

“But this is not always based on age,” she said. “If it lacks hisotrical, social or cultural and architectural significance, nor has neighbourhood character – aging alone could not be said to be heritage.

Source: Myanmar Times

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