How to reconcile the Scythians and Cossacks with high-rise buildings and the modern era



The topic of construction in the territories of cultural heritage sites has turned into the Gordian knot in Ukraine.

On the one hand, cultural heritage is an absolute value that should be preserved. On the other hand, it is necessary to build the appropriate infrastructure for its effective use by the population and increasing tourism opportunities. Of course, by following clear and transparent rules.

And in this context, we have problems that should be urgently resolved.

First, let’s deal with the concepts. Territories of cultural heritage sites are the areas of monuments of national and local importance, historical and cultural reserves, historical and cultural protected areas, protection zones, protected archaeological territories, historical locations of settlements, or, more simply, historical and cultural territories.

In Ukraine, all 1.5 thousand cities and small towns and about 8 thousand villages (more than 30% of the total) have cultural heritage sites. Today, 2.1 thousand objects are included to the list of cultural heritage objects not subject to privatization.

However, there is no single open database or register containing information on all historical and cultural territories of Ukraine. In such a way, there is no possibility to determine the principles of use of one or another land plot.

It is clear that in addition to usual urban planning documentation, construction activities in such territories should be regulated by a number of additional procedures. But they should be clear and reasonable. Because, in accordance with the current legislation, business should contact the same cultural heritage protection bodies from 4 to 10 times. Moving in a circle.

Many “circles of hell”

As a first step, a potential real estate developer should approve a land allocation plan to obtain a land plot. Next, he will need a historical and city planning verification, and, in particular, frequent scandalous cases happen at this stage. This stage consists of several steps. First of all, you will need to apply for a historical structure report and then get approval for it. Based on this document, you should order another “scientific research” – a historical and city planning verification, which is also approved by the Ministry of Culture. It should be noted that the need for approval of such a document is established only by methodological recommendations established by the order of the Ministry of Culture. No one act of the Cabinet of Ministers or law of Ukraine doesn’t contain these requirements.

But if the real estate developer doesn’t obtain such a verification despite of the fact that this order is advisory rather than mandatory, his activity will be hindered at the next stage of construction. Today, this “regulatory instrument” allows to go beyond the standards of general plans of the cities, in which they are approved, in particular, regarding the height of buildings in

historic city centers. Consequently, there are numerous scandalous real estate developments. Does it speak for corruption risks of the instrument? Sure.

Now we go on. After obtaining the historical and city planning verification, the developer receives the initial data for design and prepare his project. After that, he again contacts cultural heritage protection bodies to approve the project. Here is another interesting thing. Urban planning laws and laws on protection of cultural monuments contain contradictions as for the approval. The urban planning legislation abolished this approval, as explicitly stated in the Law of Ukraine “On Architectural Activity”: if a project is developed on the basis of urban conditions and restrictions, no additional approvals are required, in particular, from cultural heritage protection bodies. Instead, the Law on Protection of Cultural Heritage provided for the necessity to approve the project. And, in fact, it is carried out, although there are no subordinate acts regulating its concept and procedure. Moreover, there is still an open question for compliance with what the officials check the project submitted.

You won, and they approved! You can start construction works. But no, please wait. Before starting any activity on a land plot, you also need to find out whether its archaeological value was estimated. It is impossible to learn about this fact by your own, because there is no open information. You should make a query to the Institute of Archeology, which makes a verdict, whether this territory was estimated or not. If so – the real estate developer should obtain a permit for excavation works and again contact the cultural heritage protection bodies. As a reminder – it is after the developer has contacted the bodies for several times to approve the historical and city planning verification of the project… If not – there is another problem: actually, we have unlimited terms for archaeological excavations in our country. And as for the entrepreneur who have already invested in the land plot, project documentation, etc. – this also creates unlimited opportunities for blackmailing offenses and losses due to unpredictable prolongation of construction terms.

Finally, after all above mentioned steps, the developer should obtain an authorization to work from cultural heritage protection bodies. It would be logical if there were no prior approvals as well as permit to start construction works.

International requirements and umpteen “extra floors”

Problems related to the protection of UNESCO World Heritage sites located in Ukraine make this topic even more acute. The UNESCO Committee is constantly pointing the problem of uncontrolled real estate development of the buffer zone to Kyiv in its decisions. In this context, a good example is a building located on the Klovsky Descent and rising just next to the Lavra, when viewed from the Left bank at the Right one. This building is located in the buffer zone of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and affects the landscape of Kyiv hills protected by UNESCO, so construction on this territory should be regulated by the state.

Consequently, having assessed all problematic points, the regular UNESCO monitoring mission determined that it is necessary to carry out a full inventory of already finished and planned high-rise construction projects using 3D visual simulation as well as impose a ban on such projects until UNESKO analyzes the impact assessment of such construction activities in terms of world heritage sites. And as for the building on the Klovsky Descent, UNESCO demands none other than demolishing extra floors.


Given the scope of problematic points, the sector requires systemic changes. The following measures will help to implement them:

  • accelerating the development and adoption of amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On Protection of Cultural Heritage” to eliminate the contradictions between provisions of the laws on cultural heritage and urban planning laws and harmonize it with the Laws of Ukraine “On Administrative Services” and “On Permits System in Economic Activity”.
  • publishing a full database of immovable objects of cultural heritage.
  • accelerating the development of general plans for all settlements in the country, in particular, for Kyiv.
  • harmonizing the national legislation in accordance with the international law on cultural heritage protection, in particular the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.