Wachau Zones

Development of the Wachau Zones © Arbeitskreis Wachau

Through the provision of a development plan, Wachau Zones enable the municipalities to determine possible development in historically valuable settlement areas more precisely than with conventional methods. The concept of the Wachau Zones is therefore one of the central elements for preserving the building culture typically found in the Wachau as a World Heritage Site.

In principle, within the scope of development plans, only a small number of basic parameters can be defined for potential development projects. The so-called ‘townscape paragraph’ (Art. 56 of the Lower Austrian Building Code) permits mayors, as the highest construction authority, to prescribe the design of buildings with only a certain degree of leeway.

However, Arts. 30 and 31 of the Lower Austrian Spatial Planning Act permit the provision of protective zones covering buildings worthy of preservation due to their architecture or historical importance. The structural design and technology can then be prescribed in these zones for specific construction projects.

This concept was first developed in a number of towns to the south of Vienna (e.g. Baden and Bad Vöslau) and transferred to the rural area in Lower Austria for the first time as part of a pilot project in the Wachau. In order to give the concept a catchy name, the protective zones in the Wachau were called “Wachau Zones”.

The process begins with the definition of an appropriate stock of existing structures that are worth preserving for their architecture or history. This is done on an inspection involving the Wachau Zone partners (Krems regional planning office, Lower Austrian Building Directorate, Federal Monuments Office). On the basis of these inspections, a development plan is then produced which is based on a general categorisation into four categories and makes concrete specifications for future development, in some instances down to the level of an individual plot of land.

The concept was tested and optimised in five pilot municipalities of the Wachau (Rossatz-Arnsdorf, Dürnstein, Mautern, Bergern im Dunkelsteinerwald and Spitz). In the management plan for the Wachau World Heritage Site, all Wachau municipalities undertake to test the possibility of implementing Wachau Zones in the medium term.