Planning Decision-Making in China Calls for More Accountability
Recent incidents of shifting plans without notifying residents have triggered the Chinese society’s attention on planning issues. For example, a proposed apartment building plan was changed to a gas station in Zhuzhou, and an underground parking lot in Changsha became a market. Some experts have said that local government officials change the plans without a formal process for political performance and personal interests.
According to residents living in Zhuzhou Xinxin Jiayuan residential district, in March this year construction started in an empty space next to the residential district, and the developer claimed that the project was going to be new residential housing. However, in October a notice was posted next to the construction site saying that a gas station was going to be built on the site. The new gas station would be located only 1.5 meters away from the residential district’s wall. Moreover, the gas station is going to be elevated 5 meters above the ground and will block the sun. Before the public notice period expired, four gas tanks had already been buried underground.
Residents in Changsha have also encountered some issues on planning and development: they suddenly realized that an underground parking lot was turned into a market. Before the market, the parking lot was used as a construction material store.
Zheng Guang, architecture professor from Hunan University, said that the local government officials usually have term limits, so they are pressured to produce results that prove their governmental ability in a short term. This pushes some officials to adopt plans that may not benefit the city in the long run.
The reporter found that some projects whose legality was questioned by the public usually had approval from the local planning department. For example, the gas station project next to Zhuzhou Xinxin Jiayuan residential district had all legal documents needed to make it legitimate. However, some insiders say that these kind of projects seem legitimate from the surface, but are actually a result of corruption.
Tan Chunhua, Vice Director of the Changsha Planning and Design Academy said that in order to regulate disorderly planning practices, an accountability system must be established, and a plan’s writer and decision maker should be responsible for the outcome of that plan.
Do you think an accountability system will help the local government to be responsible for their planning decisions?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.
The original article, published in Chinese, can be found here.
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