Turkey's controversial construction projects saved by recent amendments

Published January 17th, 2015 - 04:55 GMT

An amendment to an article of Zoning Law No. 3194 has saved controversial buildings like the Ak Saray presidential palace and the Zeytinburnu 16:9  Skyscrapers from unfavorable court rulings, according to a report in the Hürriyet daily on Tuesday.

The amendment to Article 29 of the Zoning Law helps protect projects that were completed not in accordance with their original development plans, allowing unforeseen or unauthorized additions to be reconsidered and incorporated as part of the original project. This protects the controversial Ak Saray presidential palace, the Zeytinburnu 16:9 high-rise towers that have obstructed İstanbul's historic old city skyline, as well as several construction projects in the coastal area of İstanbul's Ataköy neighborhood. The amendment has effectively invalidated recent court decisions made against the projects, and would likely protect them from future rulings.

The Ak Saray is said to contain 1,000 rooms, built on state-owned forest land and with a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. It has been at the center of heated debates, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ignored a number of court orders to halt construction. Even after a court ruling in March of this year, Erdoğan, who was then still prime minister, told reporters: “Let them demolish it if they have enough power to do so. They ordered a stay of execution but they will not be able to stop it. I will open it and I will live in it.”

The İstanbul 4th Administrative Court, on Dec. 13, 2013, ordered the destruction of a number of floors of 16:9, then still under construction, on the grounds that they would affect the silhouette of the city. Following appeals, the Council of State upheld the local court's ruling in May 2014, ordering that the heights of the towers be reduced by 45 meters. However, the towers still stand at 85 meters high since the Zeytinburnu Municipality refuses to obey the court decision. Erdoğan has claimed that he did not know the buildings were going to be so high, saying that he is angry with developer Mesut Toprak and has not spoken with him since.

Meanwhile, an İstanbul court ruled in November of last year to halt the construction of a number of buildings in the coastal area of İstanbul's Ataköy neighborhood after the Turkish Union of Engineers and Architects' Chambers (TMMOB) filed an appeal with a court. The TMMOB had appealed the decision of a lower court to the İstanbul Regional Administrative Court. The lower court's decision ruled that certain constructions should be allowed to continue, while others should be halted.

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