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Tallinn's planning problems revealed

  • 2007-09-26
  • By Joel Alas

CLOUDS GATHERING: Concerns about Tallinn's future were raised at a recent British-Estonian Chamber of Commerce meeting where the city's chief architect spoke of a lack of control over development.

TALLINN - Tallinn City Council's chief architect has revealed a worrying snapshot of the city's development 's there are no controls over building aesthetics, public transport expansion plans are dependent on European Union funding, and authorities prefer a "self-regulating" traffic system to road expansion.
Endrik Mand, who was recently appointed chief architect, said the council had little power to encourage or direct development, but relied on developers to drive the city's future.
Mand addressed a seminar hosted by the British Estonia Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 19. His comments surprised some audience members, who had hoped to hear more detail of the city's future traffic and development plans.

But Mand said there were few road schemes in the works. The much-discussed "northern vein" 's which is hoped to ease traffic around the heavily congested port area 's is stalled, awaiting EU funding.
"The technical project is in existence, but it's a question of money," Mand said.
EU money is also required to fund the city's tram line extension. Plans to create new tram lines to the suburbs of Mustamae, Pirita and the airport at Ulemiste are in the "final stage," yet Mand said the city must apply for European money before they can progress.
There are no plans for the construction or expansion of roads. Mand said the city preferred a "self regulating" system where pressure points are allowed to build as a way of deterring drivers.
"There should be problems... Drivers will learn to avoid certain areas. If we widen certain roads we just invite drivers. There should be narrow points. But there should also be a way to go around them," Mand said.
He showed several areas of the city where the council hoped development would progress, including residential and business complexes near the central port area, a recreational and residential park around the old Lasnamae limestone pits, and the high-density build-up of the Northern Tallinn peninsula.

However, he said the city had no means to encourage or instigate rejuvenation of its districts. The municipal government owns 10 percent of land in the city, only two percent of which is developable. All major district revivals must be developer-directed, he said.
Mand also revealed why many new buildings are being created with little architectural vision: the city's building act contains no mention of aesthetics.
"We have no legal support to say no to a building because it is ugly," Mand said. "It's just a question of persuasion."
Controls only exist for new high-rise buildings in the city center, and for buildings within the protected suburbs such as Kalamaja, which has many picturesque wooden houses, he said.

The BECC seminar also heard from the developers of the New Sakala Center, a major shopping and entertainment complex in the city center. Building of the New Sakala Center is currently underway, and is expected to finish in late 2008. It will house shops, a cinema multiplex and a large concert hall.
The developers said they were largely reliant on public transport, and said they hoped the city council would expand routes to encourage greater use of buses and trams.