ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday decided to waive the height restriction for buildings set by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The CAA had restricted building height to 20 storeys within a 15 kilometre radius from the Islamabad airport, which the federal cabinet set aside under a new aviation policy it approved in a meeting chaired by the prime minister.

Giving details of the cabinet meeting, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the height condition for high-rises in Islamabad has been removed.

High-rises can now be constructed in all commercial areas without NOC from CDA, CAA, information minister says

He said the decision was taken after a series of meetings with CAA and the Capital Development Authority (CDA).

“Because the prime minister wants to see cities grow vertically rather than horizontally, high-rises can now be constructed in all commercial areas of the capital without a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the CDA or CAA,” he said.

“It is hoped the decision will bring foreign investment into the [housing and construction sector],” he added.

However, the minister did not say if builders will have to follow CDA’s building by-laws if they do not need its NOC.

In a number of meetings, Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed city managers to encourage vertical development in order to preserve the city’s green character and to boost construction activities.

A participant of the meeting told Dawn that the prime minister was of the view that CDA and CAA should make business-friendly, uniform rules and provide ease of doing business to developers so they can construct high-rises without any hurdles.

In the backdrop of building restrictions within a 15km radius of the two airports in the twin cities, the prime minister had also directed both authorities to make an easy procedure for the approval of site plans for high-rise buildings.

“Fix a timeline for the approval of site plans. They should be approved in one month,” he had said.

The prime minister said affordable housing facilities could be provided in the federal capital through the construction of high-rise buildings because the cost of a house in vertical buildings was lower than in horizontal construction.

Former prime minister Shaukat Aziz, while giving approval for the building plan of the highest building of the capital, Centaurus, back in 2005 had written on its file: “Sky is the limit”, after which CAA could not take any action against the owner of the building even though the building was within 15km of Islamabad Airport.

Present maximum height allowed to Centaurus was 420 feet for the construction of a seven-star hotel adjacent to its three already constructed 300ft towers.

However, the CAA, after former president Gen Pervez Musharraf’s regime, had raised objection on the height of the hotel approved by the CDA. As a result, the construction of the hotel was stopped soon after work on it began.

When the prime minister had asked CAA officials regarding its rules for high-rise buildings, they said they give approval for the high-rises on a case-to-case basis in view of aircraft flying area restrictions.

The prime minister expressed dissatisfaction and said: “It means that CAA has different rules for influential and ordinary persons.”

He had added that the CAA should make uniform rules for all and problems should not be created for those who meet these rules.

The prime minister gave examples of many modern cities where over 100-storey buildings exist even within a 5km radius of airports.

“Burj Khalifa of Dubai is located 5km from the airport but the civil aviation authority of Dubai has no problem,” he added.

He directed that except areas which fall under the funnel area of the two airports in Islamabad, all other areas must be opened for high-rise construction.

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2019