State plans to make Tallinn Old Town heritage protection more flexible

Old Town of Tallinn
Old Town of Tallinn Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The state heritage protection board (Muinsuskaitseamet) is planning a three-tiered protection system which it says will make scope for work on buildings within the Old Town more flexible. Up to now, all buildings have been treated the same, regardless of whether they have any tangible heritage aspects attached to them or not.

The heritage board plans to divide such buildings into three categories, A, B and C.

B protection category buildings will not require permission from heritage protection or be subject to special conditions for heritage protection when making renovations, save for basement floors.

This latter exception relates to the fact that many building foundations, cellars etc. date back to the medieval period, even if the above-ground building is newer, while a subterranean archaeological cultural layer may have been preserved on site.

All historic buildings with preserved medieval and early modern above-ground construction, details and layers which may be discovered or already have already been found make up category A, including even newer buildings with preserved, valuable interiors.

Conversely, B category buildings are those for which there is certainty that there cannot be anything of heritage value contained inside, including those buildings irreparably damaged during World War Two or other conflicts.

At present, all buildings in the heritage conservation area are treated equally, meaning a heritage conservation permit is required for work carried out in all buildings, even if they have no details of heritage value.

Cadastral map of Tallinn's Old Town. Source: Muinsuskaitseamet

The protection board says the new system will be more flexible than its predecessor.

The categories only concern the Old Town area, itself a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Category C includes power substations, outhouses, garages and other ancillary buildings with little to no architectural value and spatial impact.

A regular building permit, coordinated by the heritage protection department, is generally sufficient for making alterations at such sites.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Karmen Kikas

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