New restrictions on resort development in Kutchan Town, near the popular Niseko ski resort, were scheduled to be introduced this fall, but have been pushed back. These restrictions are aimed at protecting the town’s natural environment and scenery from an unchecked surge in development by foreign funds in the Hirafu and Hanazono districts.

The surging development in this region has led to concerns over the environmental impacts, including deforestation and the drying up of hot spring water from over-drilling. 

The potential restrictions could see rules regarding lot sizes outside of the resort areas in order to avoid crowded holiday home neighborhoods from popping up, height limits, rules on minimum greenery requirements, as well as building floor size limits on hotel and accommodation facilities. 

In January 2022, a petition with 653 signatures was submitted to the local town government raising concerns about the town not seeking enough opinions from concerned parties, and suggesting that the town hire a town planner with experience in resort development. 

In 2021, a total of 14 approvals were given for hot spring drilling in the Hirafu district – the highest on record and double the number in 2020. Most of them were submitted prior to September 15, the date from which stricter rules about water drilling were introduced. New drilling is now restricted in part of this district due to a drop in groundwater levels. Most of the approvals were given to real estate companies from Hokkaido and elsewhere who are planning condominiums and other resort developments. 

In August 2021, JNEWS reported that there are over 300 hotel-condominium buildings under development in Kutchan. Land values over the past five years have risen 4-fold as foreign developers scramble for sites. 

The Hokkaido Shimbun, July 5, 2022.
The Hokkaido Shimbun, May 13, 2022.
JNEWS, August 13, 2021.

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