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The 20% building density increase and its side effects
9 April 2017
This Government, a few months ago, in order to introduce a simple procedure to cover illegalities relating to the building extent and referring to houses/apts, has introduced a new regulation which allows the owners/buyers to increase the building density prevailing at the time of construction by 20% or up to a minimum of 60 sq. mts (applications are accepted if submitted by the 31.12.2019).
This is indeed a good measure and what is more important to note is that owners/buyers may apply for the increased density and planning application without going through the developer/registered owner or the other co-owners and neighbours. This is on the one hand good since the owners are not held to ransom by the developer/ registered owner etc. On the other hand the planning authority has no information whether the project and other buyers have an objection. As such we have the case where one house built another floor blocking the views of the property at the rear, whereas another carried out an extension to the living room, blocking the living room (terraced units) of the neighbour. This cannot be correct and whereas one project is developed with certain parameters, it takes a few people to spoil it. This creates problems mainly for the neighbours but for others as well who are in the immediate vicinity.
A difficult situation to solve but in our opinion the planning authority should ask the neighbours and the registered owners/investors on their reaction on the application for extension – not necessarily to take them into account, but to bear in mind on its decision. In addition apartment buildings have all sorts of odd aesthetics in terms of appearance with several floor verandahs being covered and used as living space, whereas the addition of bedrooms increase the number of residents to the extent in some cases, that the common services provided cannot cope (lift, parking etc). Obviously there is no easy solution and the covering up of illegalities is a good measure to an extent. That has been adopted in other countries, such as Italy, Spain, Greece etc with each country adopting its own methodology of application. We do suggest that those who want to take advantage of this “opportunity” must pay a visit to the local Planning Office, in order to ascertain exactly what they can benefit. In the past this measure was allowed subject to compensation paid to the local authority but having said that this similar system was not successful due to the elongated time required and of course the cost. Now the situation is quite different but the “free for all” benefit goes to the other extreme.
We use usually the U.K. as an example for correct procedures and we note that in a country which is strict in getting a permit, it is but most laxed and understanding during execution and title issue. If our authorities were more efficient in the replies and not being so one sided and narrow-minded in most occasions, we could have address this situation more efficiently and to the benefit of all (neighbours included).
In this country with our limited building industry history which does not follow the market changes/requirements, it is correct that we follow the various “advanced” European countries, but by adopting them absolutely we forget that the civil service of those countries have a different attitude and care.
The recent change of the building law regarding the verandahs (covered) not to measure in the building density, have increased from 20% to 25% of the size of the unit and this is good news, but then, our suggestion to increase the corridor width not to measure in the building density say up to 2.0 mts. width (so that two people can by-pass each other in the corridor invalid in addition) has not been adopted. We wonder why is this, when in the other European countries, the width of a common corridor is not an issue.
What is odd, is that the Members of the Planning Board, which is represented by civil servants from all sorts of background (Ministers of Agriculture, Finance etc) who have no clue on the subject they are there “the supreme body” taking decisions on the building industry, whereas we note the advisor of the Government in technical matters (ETEK) is runned again by Governmental employees.
We are getting better and improving but not with the speed that it is required leaving us, again, behind of market conditions and demand.