Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Clarity sought for high-rise height rules

Clarity sought for high-rise height rules

The Landscape Hotel building and a new high-rise building have been erected not far from the Royal Palace and other cultural heritage buildings.
The Landscape Hotel building and a new high-rise building have been erected not far from the Royal Palace and other cultural heritage buildings. Hong Menea

Clarity sought for high-rise height rules

The spread of high-rise buildings and raft of construction sites across Phnom Penh are signs of sustainable development, but city planning experts say more thought needs to be put into where these structures are placed and how high into the sky they reach.

Huge construction projects have been started on the outskirts of the city, but many of them are being developed in the heart of the capital, just a few steps away from heritage landmarks like the Royal Palace, Independence Monument and more.

Tall building planned for Independence Monument
 
Chinese private investment firm 4Seasons Construction announced a new 33-storey condominium project slated to be built in the heart of Phnom Penh. The building, on Street 294 and Norodom Boulevard, is only 250 metres from Independence Monument.

According to a press release sent out this week, the condominium project is expected to be finished by the end of 2020.

In 2013, a hotel was forced by City Hall to demolish its building because of its height and location near the Royal Palace.

“For the Royal Palace, there is a 300-metre radius where construction is allowed but it can only be 14 metres tall. Within a radius of 300-500 metres, buildings can only be 12 metres tall,” Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction spokesman Seng Lot said last year.

Dr Van Vat, a city planning specialist, said that when planning for a country’s urbanisation, governments had to be aware of how tall every building was and where it would be erected. In Phnom Penh, there has been an effort to force construction companies to specify the height of the building they’re working on, but the rule is not yet official and is enforced sporadically, he said. Certain areas around the Royal Palace and Independence Monument require legal building permits before construction can begin.

“Previously, City Hall and the MLMUPC used a draft decree to implement [the height rule], but it is not yet formal and widely disseminated to investors and constructions,” he said.

The Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction has a master plan for each part of the city but currently does not require companies to notify them of the height of their buildings in a stated effort to boost commercial construction projects that modernise tourist areas.

“As we haven’t determined it exactly, some of the constructions are built depending on the gradual requests from specialised ministries and obviously from investors,” Vat said. “For example, the construction is based on the situation and the expertise of the MLMUPC.”

According to sub-decree 86, article 2 on “Building Permits”, all buildings in cities or provincial towns must have construction permits from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction. Any companies that want to rebuild, expand or overlap existing buildings will also need construction permits.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
There are many high-rise buildings going up west of the Royal Palace. Moeun Nhean

Vat also cited article 86 of the construction permit sub-decree, which relates to technical regulations, construction requirements and building standards. It was not a problem, he said, for development projects to be done on conservation areas or commercial development areas.

But the latest push for a sub-decree on building height has not been formalised yet to respond to the current development climate in the country, he said, adding that it was imperative for companies to employ skilled architects and builders to pore over building plans to cover for what has been left out of the current rule book.

“As there is no formal announcement, we see high skyscrapers constructed near the river, which is contrary to the specifications of the [rule banning constructions from] 50 metres on the river bank. But some construction has been done there before and after, so the authorities have to be thorough in examining things such as the new Naga World building, restoring scenery behind it and making the air breathable,” he said.

Vat told Post Property that he was personally worried about all of the tall buildings erected near the rivers and canals of the city because they did not respect the layout of the capital and could have severe effects on Phnom Penh’s landscape, beauty and air quality.

“We should try to keep the landscape and the atmosphere in the vicinity of the Royal Palace, because it is a natural area for Cambodia’s city, where tourism is needed and awareness is demanded,” he said.

Despite his criticisms, Vat praised some of the new buildings around Phnom Penh for their design and efforts to preserve green space.

Sorn Seab, director of Key Real Estate, told Post Property that the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction’s most recent sub-decree set parameters for the locations of buildings but did not include specifications on the height of constructions.

He said the government has experience with enforcing construction rules, as they do not allow projects to build within 500 metres of the Royal Palace, Independence Monument and the city’s airport.

“Constructions have to be between 300 metres and 500 metres from those landmarks,” he said.

Seng Lot, spokesman for the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, said the rules on building location were not yet legalised but were enforced informally. Companies knew not to build near major tourist sites, but Lot said the ministry was working with City Hall and stakeholders in the sector to formalise construction rules.

He did not respond to questions about height restrictions for construction projects.

MOST VIEWED

  • Crumbling prices, rent ruffle condo segment

    The prolonged decline in international arrivals to Cambodia intensified by renewed Covid-19 fears has driven down condominium sales prices and rental rates in Phnom Penh, a research report said. CBRE Cambodia, the local affiliate of US commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE Group

  • Over $3M in traffic fines collected in two months

    Traffic police officers collected over $3 million in fines throughout the Kingdom during the past two months when officers strictly enforced the law in accordance with a May sub-decree, officials said. As incentives, law enforcement officers received between 200,000 and two million riel ($50 to $500) each. The figures

  • More than 10,000 workers suspended

    More than 10,000 workers at 18 factories in Svay Rieng province have been suspended because of Covid-19, said provincial deputy governor Ros Pharith. Home to 11 special economic zones, Pharith said Svay Rieng has not been spared as the pandemic takes a toll on the global economy. “There

  • Nod given for school exams

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport announced that State-run higher educational institutions can hold examinations to end the academic year, while private schools can organise grade 9 and grade 12 examinations at their premises for two days. However, private institutions have to take measures to prevent

  • Oz lauds Kingdom’s passage of money laundering laws

    In a press release published by the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh on Monday, the country applauded Cambodia’s stance on transnational crimes as well as its promulgation of an anti-money laundering law and a law on combating proliferation financing. The praise came after King

  • Lotus face masks designed to cover globe

    A French designer in Cambodia has produced ecological face masks from lotus fibre to supply local and international markets with an eye on preserving ancestral techniques and supporting Cambodian women in rural communities. During a trip to Asia, Awen Delaval, an eco-friendly fashion designer, was

  • Accused not treated equally, says CCHR

    The Cambodia Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) has urged the Court of Appeal to do more to ensure that an accused’s right to a fair trial is fully respected. In a bulletin released on Monday, the CCHR said it had monitored 273 cases at the

  • Fish, frogs to boost local food supply

    The government has disbursed more than $4.5 million to boost aquaculture production and domestic market supply amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon told The Post on Monday that in boosting agricultural production, the ministry has received financing from development partners

  • Planning ministry hands out cash to 420,000 poor families in Kingdom

    The Ministry of Planning has identified 20,000 more poor families in the country, bringing the total to over 580,000, while over 420,000 of them have received the government’s cash assistance. In the meantime, many social security cards from families not deemed to be poor have been revoked.

  • Nature in focus at inaugural film and photo festival

    The first Cambodian Wildlife Photo and Film Festival – an event celebrating the conservation of nature through the eyes of wildlife photographers, nature enthusiasts and conservation experts – is scheduled for July 18-26 at Fauna in Focus’ Nature Discovery Centre in Siem Reap. The festival will be