Limited high-rises under new Yangon zoning scheme

Limiting the number of high-rise development projects in Yangon will preserve the city’s heritage while continuing to attract foreign investment – that’s the message of the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) regarding the city’s zoning plan, a spokesperson said last week during a meeting.

A view of downtown Yangon. Photo: StaffA view of downtown Yangon. Photo: Staff

Speaking at the December 4 discussion about Yangon land use and building heritage zoning, architect Daw Hlaing Maw Oo said, “The plan for the long term is to have a city that is attractive for residents and interesting to foreign or local investors. That’s why we need to include conservation in our land-use and building heritage zoning plan.” Daw Hlaing Maw Oo works for the Department of Human Settlements and Housing Development.

Limiting the high-rise building zone will help conserve Yangon city features, she added.

“If we allow high-rise buildings throughout the region, the heritage buildings and their culture will disappear,” she said.

The YCDC’s claims of limiting Yangon’s development in order to preserve the city’s current infrastructure come as numerous investors are either turned away from developing modern high-rise buildings in central areas of town or being forced to scale back on existing projects.

Many buildings in downtown Yangon, meanwhile, remain outdated with poor safety standards, and are in some cases dilapidated.

“Different people will have different views on what’s best for the city and compromises will be needed in framing policies, but once the rules and regulations are in place everyone should be treated equally,” said U Thant Myint-U, chairman of the Yangon Heritage Trust.

Nevertheless, experts believe that investors are willing to work around building restrictions so long as economic prospects remain high.

“People in the future will invest in the areas that don’t have such limitations and where you can develop high-rise buildings,” said U Aung Thura, chief executive at locally-based consultancy firm Thura Swiss. “If you look at Shanghai and Beijing, completely new areas have now been developed where nothing existed before.”

Serge Pun, chairman of the multinational realty firm Serge Pun & Associates, agrees with the municipal plan, saying that it will give developers more specific guidelines to draw from that perhaps did not exist before.

“I think [the zoning plan is] very necessary. Yangon city has never had a zoning law and that actually opens up to a lot of loopholes so having a new set of regulations is very good,” he said.

“We have to be extremely sensitive toward preserving the heritage building.”

The YCDC has rolled out new land-use classifications such as low-, medium- and high-density residential, mixed-use, commercial and business, industrial and warehouse, and others, with the hope of preventing misallocations of land that could damage the city’s infrastructure.

“We need this zoning plan so as to avoid making mistakes, like allowing high-rise buildings that obscure the view of Shwedagon Pagoda,” said Daw Hlaing Maw Oo.

The plan, once approved, will apply to both private and government buildings. Discussions will take place in public, she said.

Uncontrolled growth could damage the quality of life for residents, warned YCDC consultant U Kyaw Lat.

“Increased floor-area ratios downtown will cause more congestion,” he said, adding that traffic jams could reduce average vehicle speeds in built-up areas to 3 miles an hour.

Vice chair of Yangon Heritage Trust, Daw Moe Moe Lwin, said wide variations in materials, building heights and quality standards, meanwhile, would harm the city.

YCDC deputy director U Toe Aung suggested a trade-off by which higher buildings could be located uptown if building density was decreased.

“We restrict buildings in Ahlone township to 12 storeys, but that could go up to 18 storeys if there are fewer buildings. But we can’t do that downtown,” he said.

Economic adviser to the president Aung Htun Thet said some experts predicted that by 2030, 25 percent of Yangon’s population would live in the downtown area – about double the current proportion. “Responsible people accept zoning and height restrictions,” he said.

Source: Myanmar Times

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