Protected view

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View of St Paul's Cathedral from King Henry's Mound (before the construction of Manhattan Loft Gardens behind the cathedral in 2016).

A protected view or protected vista is the legal requirement within urban planning to preserve the view of a specific place or historic building from another location. The effect of a protected view is to limit the height of new buildings within or adjacent to the sightline between the two places so as to preserve the ability to see the landmark as a focus of the view. The protection may also cover the area behind the place or building concerned.

In London, high-rise development is restricted at certain sites if it would obstruct protected views of St Paul's Cathedral and other historic buildings from various prominent locations around the city.[1][2] This policy, known as 'St Paul’s Heights', has been in operation by the City of London since 1937.[3] In Edinburgh, a 2005 skyline study compiled a list of almost 170 key views which are protected.[4]

In the US, protected views exist in places such as San Francisco;[5] Portland, Oregon where the size of downtown blocks is kept low to maintain the views of Mount Hood from the West Hills;[6] and in Canada the city of Vancouver, British Columbia has protected "view cones".[7][8] New York City only has a single protected view, at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade,[9] and Austin, Texas, has protected views of the State Capitol.[10]

Protected Vistas in London[edit]

Map of the protected views in London: in the SVG file, hover over a viewpoint (red circle) to highlight its view(s)

The thirteen vistas protected by the London View Management Framework are as follows:

a distance of over 10 miles (16 km) and created in 1710, this view frames the cathedral through a special gap in holly hedging, down a specially maintained clear avenue in Sidmouth Wood and then all the way across London. This protected view has limited development around Liverpool Street Station as a tall structure there would form an unacceptable backdrop to the view of St Paul's.[11] Construction of a new 42 story building behind the cathedral was started in 2016, despite opposition from groups who claimed that this would spoil the view of the church.[12]

The views of St Paul's Cathedral from Waterloo Bridge and Hungerford Bridge are not explicitly protected although they are protected in practice by the views from Richmond Park and from Westminster Pier respectively as these bridges are on the path of the protected vistas.


  1. ^ a b "London View Management Framework". Greater London Authority. Archived from the original on 2 March 2021. Retrieved 5 September 2021.
  2. ^ "Policy 7.7 Location and design of tall and large buildings". London City Hall. Retrieved 28 June 2022.
  3. ^ "Protected views and tall buildings". City of Retrieved 5 July 2022.
  4. ^ "Edinburgh landscape and scenery". City of Edinburgh Council. Retrieved 5 September 2021.
  5. ^ "San Francisco General Plan :: Urban Design". San Francisco Planning Department. Archived from the original on 3 April 2022. Retrieved 5 September 2021.
  6. ^ "Central City 2035, Volume 3A Scenic Resources Protection Plan, Part 1: Summary, Results, and Implementation Re-Adoption Draft" (PDF). Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. April 2020. Archived (PDF) from the original on 20 June 2020. Retrieved 26 May 2022.
  7. ^ "View Protection Guidelines" (PDF). City of Vancouver. February 2011. Retrieved 5 September 2021.
  8. ^ "Protecting Vancouver's views". City of Vancouver. Retrieved 5 September 2021.
  9. ^ "Minerva Casts Curse on Brooklyn Development". 2010-09-13. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  10. ^ "How Do Capitol View Corridors Preserve Sights Of Austin's Most Famous Building?". KUT Radio, Austin's NPR Station. 2018-02-02. Retrieved 2022-02-03.
  11. ^ Catchpole, Tim (2004). "London Authority and Big Brother". RUDI - Resource for Urban Design Information. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  12. ^ Khomami, Nadia (2016-11-23). "London mayor urged to act over tower that 'compromises' St Paul's view". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2018-12-29.