LAHORE: Lahore Development Authority Director General Ahmad Aziz Tarar has justified the recent amendments to the LDA Private Housing Scheme Rules-2014 Rules, calling them a step towards the ease of doing business.

He was responding to a set of questions regarding the amendments raised by different circles, who have wished to remain unnamed.

An examination of the amendments shows that the changes may benefit those who have launched or plan to initiate housing projects.

Graveyard and mosque

Previously, as per the rules, the developer was liable to allocate and develop graveyard within the scheme on two per cent of the total salable area, said an official. Now, sub-rule b (XI) of rule-10 of the amended rules reads “Graveyard shall be provided within the housing scheme with any existing graveyard in nearby vicinity (within 5km radius) subject to the conditions that the land is owned by the same sponsor, site has an appropriate access, site exists in conformity with the master plan and provision of NOC from the owner (s) of the adjacent land”.

The DG, however, took cover of the Islamabad rules and said, “Provision of a graveyard within 5km radius is not a big issue, as it is also being practiced in Islamabad, where both public and private sector developers have already been allowed to do so,” he said.

“This is not mandatory for the developers to develop graveyards outside the scheme. So if someone wants or doesn’t want to buy a plot in the housing schemes having graveyards outside the project area, it is up to them.”

Similarly, in sub rule-1, planning standards for housing schemes and land subdivisions have also been changed. Previously, the sponsor of a land subdivision (40 kanal and less) was to provide a plot for a mosque. Not anymore. The DG did not comment.

Land for low-cost houses

According to another amendment made in sub rule (b) of rule 10, developers have been allowed to use 20 per cent of the saleable area allocated earlier for the low-cost apartments for low income people for developing three and five marla plots.

“Developers, now, would carve out 3 and 5 marla plots on the land reserved for the low cost apartments for the low income people,” the official maintained. The DG did not offer a version.

Preliminary Planning Permission

Another amendment is the skipping of the Preliminary Planning Permission (PPP) – the first stage to assess whether the project can be processed for technical sanction of the layout plan and according a final approval onward.

An LDA’s metropolitan wing was to check ownership status of the land presented for the development of the scheme as per site plan from the revenue department.

This was also for those developers having ownership of the 20 percent of the total land along with a bank guarantee containing assurance for the provision of the rest 80 per cent land before the final approval.

Moreover, the LDA was also to get an NOC from the irrigation department regarding existence of the land in the area not prone to flooding, a preliminary NOC from the Water and Sanitation Agency regarding provisions of disposal of sewage and soil testing report regarding availability of sweet water underground. Now, this step has been withdrawn to save time. Under the new amendment, the developer can apply directly for approval of the layout plan by providing certain NOCs.

EPA

Another amendment to rule 26 allows developers to submit an NOC from the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) even after getting the final approval of the project.

“The sponsor shall submit NOC issued by the EPA within six months of the sanction of the scheme, if applicable. However, in case of failure, the sponsor shall be liable to pay penalty as per rule 36 for the duration of delay in provision of NOC. It shall be subject to formal request by the sponsor and affidavit to comply with the above conditions,” reads the rule.

However, an EPA official said under the ease of doing business, the department was issuing NOCs (both for the major and small housing schemes) on the basis of their Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and Initial Environment Examination (IEE). For EIA and IEE cases, the department consumes 40 and 20 days if all formalities are complete on the part of the developer.

About the EPA NOC, Mr Tarar said the amendment was introduced as the EPA would consume a lot of time to issue NOCs for housing projects. “Since the EIA for the entire area allocated for the residential, commercial and industrial activities in Lahore’s master plan has already been done by the EPA, why does the EPA want developers to come and seek NOCs separately from it for each project?”

Mr Tarar said.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2020