Well, perhaps that's a slightly exaggerated claim - but the iconic Japanese mountain has certainly disappeared from general view in certain areas of Tokyo, owing to the high rise developments built there which obscure the outlook to the mountain for many citydwellers. Tokyo, with its population of around 13 million, increasingly suffers from pollution, and the resultant fog often makes it difficult even to have a peep at the 12,388 feet high volcano.
In carrying out viable and sympathetic property development it is often difficult to protect historic buildings in some parts of the world, but it is nigh on impossible to protect a view, even when the subject of the view is practically the national emblem. One solution would be to form a viewing corridor where building heights would be restricted, but it is estimated that in Tokyo this would have to be about three miles long and up to 1000 feet wide in parts of the city which are already developed as residential neighbourhoods, to provide any kind of useful protection.
The view from the steep hillside in the Nippori district called Fujimizaka (loosely translated this
means ‘the slope for seeing Mount Fuji’) which for the moment still exists, is now under threat owing to the constant and relentless property development in Tokyo. Such development and building have progressed, largely without any constraint, since the Second World War. A new development of fourteen stories was proposed about ten years ago but is still believed to be proceeding. It would, when built, completely obstruct the view even from this hillside which in itself has become a tourist destination. A plea to the developer to reconsider simply resulted in a request for compensation in return for imposing a height restriction on the tower. Other hillsides in the city have already lost their historic view owing to other developments and as this is the last remaining, so it appears even more important that it might be preserved.
A preservation society has been formed by some of the older citizens of Tokyo. They can remember seeing the famous mountain each morning from the city streets where they now run businesses in some of the older properties, and who now fear that the snow-capped peak will not be visible even from the elevated hilltop of Fujimizaka. The society has not, in truth, had much success in restricting the height of the building in question, but continues to campaign to raise awareness of the problem before it becomes too late. They have, for example, organised an event called Diamond Fuji which takes place on the two occasions during the year when the sun sets exactly on the top of the mountain, attracting the attention of around 300 people each time.
So what do other cities around the world do about problems like this one?
In London Boris Johnson as Lord Mayor has taken some control over the protection of the 26 various views of St Pauls from around the city. The London View Management Framework offers guidance in assessing the way that these
views can be protected, whilst still allowing and encouraging development within the city. One of the other ‘Protected Vistas’ which is included within this list is that of the Tower of London as seen from City Hall. In June of this year the Mayor published the draft document dealing with these matters for public consultation. So London is being proactive in trying to offer some advice and guidance to developers.
In Seattle it is also the City’s policy to protect public views of historic landmarks. The City Council define a viewing corridor as a ‘three dimensional space extending outwards from a viewpoint’ which in turn is defined as ‘a location from which to enjoy a view.’
In Edinburgh, Scotland, which is a World Heritage Site, there are strict planning regulations as to what may be built. The New Town was designed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and the title conditions imposed by landowners disposing of the land for this development ensured that the buildings conformed to the overall design plan. The robust planning system which replaced these legal obligations now ensures that any development in the city is strictly monitored.
Town planning therefore might help avoid the same thing happening in other cities across the world. We invite you to tell us what is happening wherever you are.
Editorial , London
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