Lahore Development Authority (LDA) has initiated the process of developing a long-term commercialisation policy for the Lahore Division, The Express Tribune learnt on Monday.
Following the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP), the city developer has been teamed up with the provincial government’s Urban Sector Planning and Management Services Unit, aka The Urban Unit, to conduct a detailed survey of commercial buildings in the city.
On the instructions of the LDA Director General (DG) Amna Imran Khan, Chief Town Planner Syed Nadeem Akhtar Zaidi, along with officials from the Urban Unit, surveyed various multistorey commercial buildings on Jail Road and Gulberg Main Boulevard on Monday.
They inspected private hospitals on Jail Road and commercial buildings from various aspects, such as implementation of building bylaws, commercialisation of plots and adherence to environmental laws and safety standards. They also checked vehicle parking arrangements in both old and new buildings on Gulberg Main Boulevard.
The LDA DG directed officials concerned to prepare lists of commercial and residential buildings in all its housing schemes, including plots that have been encroached or empty. During a weekly performance review meeting, LDA Additional DG (Headquarters) Abdul Shakoor Rana said all directorates will prepare lists of commercial and residential properties as well as public use plots for educational institutes and hospitals.
Following the collection of this data, the authority will formulate a policy and review the reasons why public service facilities cannot be developed despite the allotment of public use plots. He also instructed officials to take pain in achieving these targets and submit their performance reports on a weekly basis.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar recently placed a ban on the commercialisation of residential properties in the provincial capital and directed the authority to prepare a commercialisation policy in line with modern-day requirements. A two-judge bench of the apex court, while hearing a suo motu notice against exorbitant prices of healthcare services at private hospitals and violations of building laws in the construction of these facilities, remarked that unplanned and rampant commercialisation had ruined the lives of the citizens of Lahore. The apex court termed the LDA commercialisation policy a “fraud” with residents of Lahore and hinted that it be struck down.
For the moment, the authority has allowed annual commercialisation of properties on the payment of annual fee in various areas of the city. The aim of this policy is to increase the authority’s revenue as citizens are using residential properties for commercial purposes in most areas. This is believed to be largely due to the limited capacity of the city developer.
A couple of years ago, LDA officials conducted a survey in the provincial capital and identified over 20,000 properties that were being used for commercial purposes without making the necessary payments of commercialisation fee. Instead of reining in illegal commercialisation the authority has considered it a revenue opportunity and allowed annual commercialisation of properties in residential areas.
The authority has decided that no structural changes may be brought in buildings after obtaining the permission of annual commercialization, but citizens complain this flawed strategy has changed entire neighbourhoods such as Johar Town and Sabzazar etc. In several other areas, citizens have established hazardous industries and chemical warehouses.
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