One tenth of area of City of Prague changed its purpose, Arnika prepared a comprehensive database

15.3.2013 - PRAGUE

From today, more than one thousand changes of the Land Use Plan of the City of Prague can be found in the newly launched synoptic database compiled by the Arnika Association. Changes addressed by the City Council since 2004 are included. The total area of changes reaches 40 square kilometres, equivalent of about thousand Wenceslas Squares. In addition to area itself, these changes affect quality of life and value of real estates. The Arnika offers legal assistance to harmed Prague residents who want to prevent ad hoc changes. Creation of the database was supported by the Otakar Motejl Fund.

Overall it contains 1056 changes. To date 445 have been approved and 435 rejected.

The rest of 176 projects are being debated. These should be voted on by the City Council in coming months. Citizens may comment on changes during the approval process.

"The Situation is unbearable. The City Council of Prague approves changes to the Land Use Plan on every council meeting. Residents of the city have no chance to learn what exactly is being prepared and what impact on quality of life and real estates it will have. In addition to the description of changes our database contains information if and what impacts the changes may have. Unfortunately, we have to claim that more than half of changes have negative impact on environment," says Martin Skalský, expert on Land Use Plan in Arnika.

"Although some problematical changes are being approved by councillors, we are convinced it is against the Construction Act and we advise residents to defend themselves. For this we provide them with free of charge legal assistance," says lawyer Vendula Zahumenská, who managed the creation of the database.

Today, more than one and hundred fifty projects are discussed in regime of changes. Prague City Council has no synoptic list of these. NGO is afraid that more of such may be hidden in City Hall's shelves. Arnika estimates that up to half are backed by godfathers. Often the changes require construction on agricultural land or in green areas, which would harm the environment. Most current areas are on the border of Dalejské Valley, in Vidoule, or in Dívčí Hrady.

"It has been several years since we urged Prague City Council to disclose official, transparent list of land use plan changes. When hundreds of city hall employees have no time to inform citizens, or for any reason have no intention to do so, we prepared the database of land use plan changes by ourselves. Deputy Mayor Tomáš Hudeček stated on last meeting, that even he has no complete list of changes available. There is said to be disorder and documents are not sorted together. Prague City Hall started a new web few days ago, but that contains four thousand items, and so it actually hides the projects being discussed in a confusing tangle of technical data." adds Skalský.

"A look at Prague City Council website indicates that main intention of its creators was to meet the formal information disclosure requirements. The purpose of list of changes of the land use plan should be something else. It should allow residents to get connected to public affairs and influence changes that affect them. Series of details on Arnika's website, specifically guidance search form, better visible paging, clearer view of details of changes, or user-friendly map shows that in this respect website will be more useful," reviewed new website Jan Böhm, on-line communication specialist.

"We believe that database will be useful assistant for residents. In the long term we support projects aimed at creation of land use plans, precisely with an emphasis on active participation of residents who should be seen as natural partner having free access to information," says Jiří Knitl, manager of the Otakar Motejl Fund. Fund supported this project with the amount of one hundred thousand Czech crowns.

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