Non-conforming use: To fix master plan breaches, CDA offers illegal solution

Proposal to give land use norm violators ‘temporary’ relief being mulled

Danish Hussain July 14, 2015
Proposal to give land use norm violators ‘temporary’ relief being mulled. STOCK IMAGE


The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has offered another reminder that it works in the interest of the high and mighty, ignoring public complaints about the illegal operations of businesses in residential areas by allowing them to ‘temporarily’ continue operating.

City managers have come up with a proposal to grant temporary relief, ranging from six months to two years, to land use norm violators operating businesses in residential areas of Islamabad.

The proposal comes on the heels of a recent Supreme Court order to find a workable solution to the Islamabad Master Plan violations.

The draft proposal – available with The Express Tribune –aims “to give significant time to the owners of businesses to shift their respective establishments to commercial areas.”

Temporary permissions — ranging from six months to two years depending on the nature of the business — will be non-transferable and non-extendable. By the completion of the relief period, the owners will be required to shift their business to commercial areas.

Permission will be granted after obtaining affidavits from the business owners and the owners of the houses. The affidavits would mention that upon completion of the relief period, any non-conforming use would have been addressed, and in future, no violation of building bylaws would be tolerated.

A license fee will also be charged, while permission will be granted upon payment of all outstanding fines imposed in the past for land use norm violations.

According to the proposal, shops, showrooms, and restaurants will be given six months, while offices, hostels, guest houses, and beauty parlors will be given one year. Schools, academies, hospitals, and clinics will be given two years to move out.

The documents say that draft framework to streamline various non-conforming use issues has been prepared in consultation with all stakeholders including representatives of Private Schools Association, Pakistan Bar Council, Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, and different restaurants.

The CDA has cited a June 4, 2015 Supreme Court order to justify the proposal. The order says, “The CDA shall prepare a policy and regulatory frame work to resolve the issue of non-conforming use. Such framework will include the processes as well as specific and fixed time for existing establishments [businesses] to shift.”

Violation of master plan

Meanwhile, a senior CDA planning wing official said the proposal was itself in violation of the city’s master plan, which clearly prohibits any commercial activity in residential areas.

“The city has been planned with different land use zones for balance and harmonious growth. The broad land uses have been planned in clearly distinguished areas such as residential sectors, commercial and civic areas, administrative centre, public building areas, diplomatic enclave, industrial and trading centers, mauve area, sports and recreational areas,” he said.

He said residential sectors are planned on the standard sectoral pattern spelled out in the master plan, comprising of four residential sub-sectors, one large central commercial area (markaz), and four to six smaller shopping centres in the sub-sectors.

The residential areas, he said, have clearly been segregated from the commercial areas to ensure privacy, peace, convenient, secure and a healthy environment for citizens.

He said grant of such temporary permissions would violate the master plan and open a new door for violators to obtain stay orders in the future on the basis of such permissions. According to him, the distinct appearance of Islamabad, a modern planned city, would be lost in the aftermath of such permissions.

Another planning wing official, asking not to be named, said, the policy will only be applicable subject to the approval of the CDA board, the federal cabinet which  will be presented before the board ‘soon’.

CDA Spokesperson Ramzan Sajid said the said proposal had not been presented at any forum yet, adding that for this reason, he could not comment on the issue.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2015.

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