Commercial Development: CDA fails to enact standard policy

Islamabad architecture

By Danish Hussain

The capital’s civic agency has decided to revisit permissions it granted to hand-picked real estate developers to alter and exceed official parameters in the city’s key business centre.

The Capital Development Authority (CDA) board has granted six permissions since 2013 to alter the agency’s ‘land use plan’ in Blue Area; allowing certain real-estate developers to erect additional structures beyond permissible limits without levying additional charges. These permissions were granted on an ad-hoc, case-to-case basis.

In some cases, the land use plan allowed at the time of sale of the commercial property by the CDA was changed. In others, the floor area ratio was increased without collecting additional land costs; benefiting investors, and causing a huge loss of revenue to the national exchequer.

“These six cases will be scrutinized and action will be taken against those responsible,” said a senior planning wing official from the authority, who declined to be named. The issue has prompted the city managers to formulate a rational, uniform policy in a bid to avoid such happenings in the future.

The CDA board has now decided to strictly follow its ‘standard planning parameters’; fixed for all commercial plots in Blue Area in 2007, and then in 2013. The board will also not exercise its discretionary powers in this regard any further, the official added. “From now onwards, the CDA board will not take up an individual’s request seeking changes to the land use plan, or for construction on extra covered areas,” the official said.

The board also decided that construction of additional floors on existing buildings in Blue Area will only be allowed if the building is demolished and a new building plan is under development.

The city managers have also abolished all discretionary powers aimed at granting permissions to builders to make changes to the land use plan. Alterations will now only be allowed as per the provisions of the Islamabad Land Disposal Regulation 2005.

Any changes aimed at enhancing floor area ratios of a plot will be allowed subject to levying the cost of land determined during the last land auction in the area.

Earlier, the same official had said that no standard design parameters were in effect, and that the authority’s planning wing used to deal with the matter on a case-to-case basis. “The planning wing used to set parameters for Blue Area commercial plots during the meeting of its departmental vetting committee, which approves building plans,” he said.

He also said that the CDA used to sell plots under defined land use norms, but that these norms would change at the time of building design approval, creating irregularities.

The officer hoped that standardising building parameters for Blue Area plots and abolishing all discretionary powers to this effect will help generate more revenue and ensure transparency in the authority’s affairs.

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