Protected view

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St Paul's from King Henry's Mound before the addition of a new building 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.

For example, in London views of St Paul's Cathedral[1] are protected from various prominent locations around the city. In Edinburgh, a 2005 skyline study compiled a list of almost 170 key views which will now be protected in the planning process.[2]

Protected views are not unique to the UK, also existing in places such as San Francisco which has some of the strictest limits in the world;[3] Portland, Oregon where the size of downtown blocks is kept low to maintain the views of Mount Hood from the West Hills; and the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, which has protected "view cones".[4][5] New York City only has a single protected view, at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.[6] Austin, Texas, has protected views of the State Capitol.

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[7]. 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[8].

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 "Protecting London's strategic views". Greater London Authority. July 2010. Retrieved April 22, 2011.
  2. ^ "Edinburgh Skyline Study". City of Edinburgh Council. 2005. Archived from the original on 12 June 2012. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  3. ^ "San Francisco General Plan: Urban Design". San Francisco Planning Department. 8 April 2011. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  4. ^ [dead link]
  5. ^ "Protecting Vancouver's views". City of Vancouver. 16 May 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
  6. ^ "Minerva Casts Curse on Brooklyn Development". 2010-09-13. Retrieved 2020-01-10.
  7. ^ Catchpole, Tim (2004). "London Authority and Big Brother". RUDI - Resource for Urban Design Information. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  8. ^ 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.

External links[edit]