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How do European countries preserve the beauty of their tourist areas?

How do European countries preserve the beauty of their tourist areas?

Dec 30th, 2003, 03:37 AM
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How do European countries preserve the beauty of their tourist areas?

How do they avoid being overrun by chain hotels and restaurants, high priced condos on the beautiful lakes, etc.
Beautiful areas in the U.S. are soon overbuilt.

Yes, I know they simply "don't allow it", but be more specific. Is it the local government, or national government? Do they simply tax any development beyond reason, in order to prevent it?

Does every tiny town have a commission of some sort, to approve or disapprove of every new building or modification to an old one?
ekellyga is offline  
Dec 30th, 2003, 03:52 AM
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"Does every tiny town have a commission of some sort, to approve or disapprove of every new building or modification to an old one?"

Yes, every town has a body that decides about building and modifying, what can be done and what cannot. I think it is in common interests to protect culturally important or naturally beautiful places.

But I don't believe that even in US they can build without an official approval. In fact I think every country and town on this globe has building regulations.
elina is offline  
Dec 30th, 2003, 03:57 AM
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Every government has it's own methods. I can only speak for the UK's.

To build a building, of any sort, you must have Planning Permission from the Local Authority. They will consider the impact of any such building on the local area, and can refuse or modify any proposal. Local residents can also object to any such building.

Certain areas are also preserved as conservation areas and/or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and other such designantions. The controls in these areas are such that it is the owners of already existing buildings who take on responsibility for the preservation of the building(although there are grants available).

Not that they can't make horrible mistakes. The wessex Hotel next to Winchester Cathedral is probably the most vile example (since Paternoster Square next to St Pauls was demolished)

david_west is offline  
Dec 30th, 2003, 04:24 AM
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David understates the complexity of the system.

I live in a Conservation Area in an AONB. My house - just - misses being specifically listed, which means I can decide the colour I paint the front door. My last house was listed, so practically any internal or external change required a raft of approvals

Before all the bureaucracy was invented, a previous owner removed the 19th century front bay window, and replaced it with something less attractive.

To put it back, we apply for planning permission to our District Council. They can't give it before consulting with our Village Council. The Village Council first consults the village conservation association. The conservation association declined to endorse our plan.

In this case, we happened to find an early 20th century photograph, sent it to each member of the conservation association and got them to change their mind. So the vilage council will, at its next meeting, endorse our plan, and the District Council will probably grant permission.

Elapsed time to being allowed to change our window: at least three months. But we haven't won yet, what we're doing is utterly uncontroversial, and our architect knows intimately the materials etc that are required in our village. The wrong wood, and we could be required to redo the work at our expense.

Oh, and at each council meeting, no-one who really knows anything about the proposal can comment. To avoid corruption, anyone connected with us in any way (same club, reting property to us etc) has to announce a conflict of interest and absent themselves from the discussion.

Now England is exceptional in its obsession with eliminating corruption, and my town is probably where they invented nimbyism. But the real secret is that no-one - seriously, no-one - disagrees with the underlying principles of all this. Anyone round here disagreeing with the proposition that development should be spectacularly controlled would be ostracised to death.

And what's the point of living in an English village if no-one will speak to you in the pub?
flanneruk is online now  
Dec 30th, 2003, 04:28 AM
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How is maintenance funded? I know there's the National Trust in the UK, but what about other countries? In Louisiana, more historic old buildings are torn down, fall down, or burn down each year. Many small towns could benefit from tourism, but they don't have the investors to prop up the very things that tourists would love to see. Despairing, jw
Dec 30th, 2003, 04:43 AM
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Interesting question. It has a number of answers.

Two of my favorite places in the world are rural in character: Provence and the west of Ireland. They preserve their beauty by their remoteness. Provence, however, has become more accessible due to the TGV and extensive roadbuilding. Many are concerned for its future.

On the other hand, Paris entirely accessible, is the quintessence of urban beauty, and remains a tourist mecca. The French, however, spend huge amounts each year to preserve its character and style.

The French and the Irish appreciate their beautiful countries. National and local governments are in tune with that sentiment. Despite being two major tourist destinations each has found a way to preserve its physical glory.

Teddy Roosevelt showed the way to preserving America's beauty. Our national and local governments should be reminded of his legacy. I oppose fanatical tree huggers but there certainly is a need for environmental prudence.

And, by the way, the reduction of auto emissions in the U.S. is a related reform completely in tune with the Roosevelt legacy. Europe and Asia better soon pay heed or their wonderful places may no longer remain so.
Powell is offline  
Dec 30th, 2003, 05:14 AM
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Flanneur; I feel your pain.

I lived in a listed house in a conservation area that was painted brown - quite a horrible brown.

THe street was used to film Pride and Prejudice and the film company painted our house a light yellow colour that made it, and the street much more attractive.

The council made us paint it horrid brown again afterwards.

So because some geezer in 1850 had poor taste, we're stuck with it for eternity. Pah!

And don't even get me started on knockers (of any description).

And Winchester has gone beyond NIMBYism to BANANA (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anywhere)
david_west is offline  
Dec 30th, 2003, 05:22 AM
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Planning and development control methods vary from country to country, despite the efforts of the EU to prod members toward a more uniform system. Some systems are decentralized, with local authorities (cities, counties or provinces) having the major portion of control, while others are more centralized, with local controls more advisory rather than dominant. France uses a notoriously centralized system, while Germany's federal system devolves much authority to the States and in turn to the localities. Britain's is weighted to the local level, but with a chain of appeals that can, in extreme cases, end up in the House of Lords (who?)

The major difference between most European planning and development systems and the US, for example, is that in the US (States have the authority, delegated to local governments through state statutes), government sets "performance" standards for new development, such as type of use, height, bulk, parking requirements, setbacks from property boundaries or roads, percentage of area covered by building or landscaping, things like that. Developers essentially are given a "box" of land and air in which they can build whatever they like, provided it complies with the land use zone (industrial, housing, etc.) and it complies with building and safety codes.

In most of Europe, particularly Britain, the local authorities typically go deeper into the design and aesthetic of the buildings in addition to all of the above, trying to insure that the development will be compatible with its surroundings - physically, visually and sometimes economically and socially. The process of obtaining planning approval usually is more drawn out than in the US, but because everyone sees it as an interactive game, one doesn't often see confrontational situations between developers and government officials that one sees in the US. In the US, developers twist and squirm to obtain maximum "yield" out of their sites, and often see the planning departments as adversaries, while in Europe it's a more systematic process. Not serene and without conflict, mind, but not as "wild west" as in many US cases. But if most developers in the US had to go through what their, say, British counterparts had to deal with, there would be thousands of popping noises as their heads blew up. "How dare you tell me to put flower boxes under my windows, you #@&*! bureaucrat!"

That said, there are aspects of both approaches that have merit: the US approach arguably stimulates development and innovation, while the European approach makes conservation and aesthetics part of basic public policy.

And of course you do see chain retail and multinational commerce in conservation areas (on both sides of the pond.) But it's discreet and fits in. What a novel concept.
Gardyloo is online now  
Dec 30th, 2003, 05:27 AM
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Interesting thread. You'll note also that there is a definite demarkation between rural and developed areas. I tried to inquire last summer in Germany just how this was effected; I think it's enforced by a zoning commission, in effect. I'd like to know more.
Bottom line, I think the Euros have more of an interest in it.
tomboy is offline  
Dec 30th, 2003, 05:43 AM
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It's a mixed bag in Europe, just as it is in the USA. There are overrun areas in Europe, and there are pristine areas in the USA. It depends on a variety of factors.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Dec 30th, 2003, 07:15 AM
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There's no country, anywhere, that can claim absolute victory in resolving the conflict between cost efficiency and aesthetics when it comes to housing units. This is a challenge to all designers, and those of the European nations are no exception. I have seen the ugliest low-rent housing imaginable in the suburbs of Paris, ironically just a few miles from Versailles. London's infamous 'council estates' aren't much better. Given that these developments were often public, non-profit ventures, one can't excuse one's repugnance as social outrage against the greed of the builder. And as for the North American side of the Atlantic, examples of similar planning disasters abound, although if any serious planning had gone into them, the magnitude of the disaster might at least have been mitigated.

Meanwhile, the watchword of the day in any western nation seems to be: bring me your tired, your poor, and your huddled masses - but please don't house them anywhere I wish to live, or take a holiday.

The same attitude permeates travel consumers, you hear it all the time as people rant against low-priced tour groups cluttering up 'our' travel destinations. Again, 'overrun' never seems to describe matters when we are the ones doing the running over.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Dec 30th, 2003, 11:24 AM
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In the UK at any rate, the demarcation isn't rural/developed. It's really rich/poor.

English planning systems in practice are highly democratic, going on demagogic. Zoning hardly exists: most decisions are made on their individual merits.

In rich areas, where almost everyone owns property, developments only go through if they don't undermine most people's house values. A 500 bed hotel in the Cotswolds or residential Chelsea would inevitably be turned down locally (because the residents don't depend on tourism: they moved there for the same reasons tourists come).Appeal to the centre, whatever the legality, would produce a politically-nuanced answer. Which would always be no, unless there was some grand national strategic issue involved (like a new airport or railway line)

In Liverpool, where no-one owns property, practically anything goes, unless a development hits a politically sensitive nerve.

By and large, "ruined" places (like Torremolinos or those Irish caravan parks) happened when the area was poor. The Dordogne or downtown Florence depend on looking pretty.
flanneruk is online now  
Dec 30th, 2003, 11:40 AM
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Just check out some of the Italian beach resorts on the Adriatic, the Belgian coastline, Aviemore in Scotland's Grampian mountains, some of the concrete ski resorts in the Alps, or even Prague, which is increasingly being "overrestored" with inauthentic gaudy colors, and you'll find that the forces of tastefulness do not always triumph, even in Europe.

One difference that helps keep the historic areas looking nice is that in Europe, it's often the close-in suburbs that house the poor, whereas in the US it's often the inner cities. This is why many Americans come back from Europe surprised that they've seen so little poverty -- they haven't been to the godawful rundown tower blocks on the outskirts of Rome or Paris or Edinburgh.
KT is offline  
Dec 30th, 2003, 03:42 PM
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I think there are some Basic reasons.
1)Europeans have less resourses than us in order to expand and rebuild.
2) Land in Europe is more valuable and scarce for new development.
3) They do not drive as much as us therefor they fix the old and do not expand into the country side as much.
4) Europeans build to last, not to replace.
wemr is offline  
Dec 30th, 2003, 04:24 PM
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Don't know about your point #4, wemr. Went to Rome a couple of years ago, and that Collarseum thingy and the fourum thingy were both a ramshackle disgrace. Neither is in the least liveable--at least not by American standards.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Dec 30th, 2003, 04:28 PM
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C'mon, isn't the entire US economy based on slipshop construction combined with natural disasters? If it keeps getting burned, tornadoed, hurricaned, mudslid or flooded you gotta employ a lot of people to keep putting it back.
indytravel is offline  
Jan 4th, 2004, 06:53 AM
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The above Brits have commented on specific buildings in the "UK system" (there are actually 2, one for England and Wale and one for Scotland. Indeed, when I think of it, Northern ireland's got another).

But, the underlying princuiple is the same for all and it's "plan based". A Regional authority sets out, every 5 years, what should be done for the next 15 years (it's a rolling programme). The more local authorities, then build a five year plan of much more specific stuff under that. Then the individual applications must fit the plan.

However, there is a general problem ongoing all over the place, that the plans can't be agreed, for some of the reasons listed above.

As a consequence there's bit of a free for all going on. KT's quite right of course with her bad examples, although having just spent a week on Speyside there is a HUGE improvement going on in Aviemore (I know, I know; it couldn't get much worse). And I'd like to think it couldn't happen here.
sheila is offline  
Jan 4th, 2004, 06:54 AM
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For "here", read "now"
sheila is offline  
Jan 4th, 2004, 07:33 AM
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I've always been impressed at how the natural beauty of the Costa del Sol has been preserved, especially in such quaint fishing villages as Torremolinos. French ski resorts such as Les Arcs and La Plagne are also superb examples of how the architecture blends in with the natural mountain environment.
laverendrye is offline  

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