Haapsalu heritage zone both expanding and being made more flexible

A street in Haapsalu's old town.
A street in Haapsalu's old town. Source: Juhan Hepner/ERR

The Heritage Protection Board (Muinsuskaitseamet) is in the process of drafting a new protection order which will, when it enters into effect, both expand the heritage protection area in the western Estonian town of Haapsalu and will render the protection system more flexible, so as, for example, to remove the current state of affairs where any outhouse or otherwise uninspiring building within the protection zone is still subject tot he same restrictions as a building of historical interest.

A three-layer categorization system will make heritage protection restrictions there, and in the rest of the country, more flexible than before, it is argued.

The three-tier system is being applied to the dozen heritage protection zones in Estonia on a case-by-case basis.

Carolin Pihlap, who heads up a working group preparing the protection order for Haapsalu, said category C, the lightest protection category, consists of: "Mostly various ancillary buildings such as garages and sheds,; also some newer residential buildings belong to this category, so anything relating to them can be simplified thanks to the changes"

The current procedure requires permission from the heritage protection board, even, for example, to repaint a shed which is located within the ​​Haapsalu heritage protection zone.

Pihlap told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) that: "In the case of Haapsalu, it stands out that we alleviated things more than has been the case for other cities so far. In the case of these C protection category buildings, in the future, separate permission from the office will not be needed to change the appearance, whereas it is mandatory according to current law."

"Changing the appearance under the terms of the Heritage Protection Act constitutes an activity where, in the case of a building for example, paintwork is changed, or an extension is built," she noted.

Merike Laur, head Vana Haapsalu Selts, a local history society, says the new protection order is reasonable, adding that she hopes that the municipality will take it into account in its plans, and will not allow Haapsalu's historic features to be spoiled by new developments.

While restrictions will be eased which will affect nearly 360 buildings in the town of 10,000, the number of buildings will be expanded by 70 – in other words the zone will be expanded.

The Heritage Protection Board will be able to keep an eye on major works related to buildings in the mildest protection category in the future as well, Pihlap said; these will be coordinated with the board in cases where the Building Code stipulates the need for a permit or notice.

The strictest category, category A, will be in place for 19 buildings and will essentially be a continuation of the regulations as they currently pertain to buildings in heritage zones in general.

Category B, would require permit from the Heritage Protection Board in the case of external facade work.

Estonia has 12 such heritage conservation areas nationwide, mostly in the historical center, often known as the old town, of the major settlements.

The Ministry of Culture is currently processing the draft bill in respect of Haapsalu's heritage protection.

Haapsalu is noted for its 13th-century episcopal castle and as having been an important spa town during both the later Tsarist era and during the First Estonian Republic.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', reporter Juhan Hepner.

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