The FINANCIAL — Since the appointment of new administration at City Hall, various reforms have been implemented, including institutional ones. The Architecture Service had two directions for permits and planning.
The best international practice shows that there should be a separate, urban planning and building department. That’s why the Architecture Service has been divided and a new Municipal Department of Urban Development has been established, which has been functioning for several months now and is still in a stage of development. Its main purpose and function is to properly plan the city’s urban development with all of its components: transport, environmental protection, etc, that are covered by the land use general plan.
The Architectural Department has remained a service provider organization in terms of granting permission for future constructions. On this, The FINANCIAL interviewed Temur Bolotashvili, the Head of Tbilisi City Hall Architecture Service.
“Since the very first day we have continuously taken care of the quality of our service, by evaluating our business processes and working on the eradication of deficiencies. It is very important to control the quality of our service, which is why we have adopted an internal assessment and monitoring system. This system will remain a constant part of the Architecture Service.”
Institutional reform also includes the optimization of resources; overall staff resources have been reduced but permit directions have been increased. We did this at the expense of the apportioning of administrative resources and at the expense of the correct structure.
We have cancelled five divisions and created two new ones: evaluation and monitoring and two engineering departments, which are very important.
In general, up till now construction permits have been issued only on the basis of an architectural project or in limited cases, experts’ conclusions on structural design.
When the new law will be enacted by Parliament, it will be necessary to present other parts of a project, for example a structural part discussed by the engineering department, and it is very important that we will be ready for this process.”
According to Bolotashvili, when they first entered the Building Department there were serious issues that needed to be addressed including problems with timeframes, overdue periods, deadlines and displacements from previous days. “It was kind of a challenge for us. Today we can say that for a few months we have had no cases of overdue applications or extensions in violation of the requirements of the legislation. If more time is required than the deadline provides, this should be defined within seven days after submission of an application and should proceed according to the relevant rule that the legislation envisages.”
“A sad reality we also faced were permissions that had already been granted, but that were causing a public disturbance through their ongoing processes. I do recall a few specific processes which we in fact had to abolish. It is always difficult when a process has already started which you then have to make a critical decision about. But as it turned out, it was the only right decision in terms of the actual and legal circumstances that we had at that stage. As for the new process, we are already trying to make decisions more accurately, taking into consideration many factors”.
There are two main directions important for the issuing of a permit: first, the new technical regulations that came into force in January 2017.
These are safety facilities of buildins related to 3rd, 4th, 5th class that are at medium and high-risk building structures and are covered by new, modern safety rules. These are the first such Georgian technical regulations that correspond to best international practice.
As regards the procedural issues in terms of construction permits, two municipal services are involved: Environmental and Transport Municipal Service. The construction permit issuance includes three stages: determination of the terms for land use; the architectural project agreement; and the issuance of the permit.
The Environmental Municipal Department determines the qualitative assessment, tactics and information about the planting of trees in the area. The Transport Municipal Service requires the presentation of a transport organization scheme, on how to move traffic safely. After determining these terms, the construction permit-seeker can start working on the architectural project.
“In ancient Tbilisi we have a special process to issue construction permits. We have a Historical Cultural Heritage Protection Council, which is staffed by the Ministry of Culture, Municipality and some invited members. Decisions about constructions are taken in accordance with the recommendations of this Council in Tbilisi. This Council shall discuss new constructions located within the immediate vicinity of structures of cultural heritage and immovable monuments, on whether they will cause any damage, either physically or visually, to these valuable structures. The main purpose and task of the Council is to keep and develop our basic heritage,” Bolotashvili told The FINANCIAL.
“As for the general plan for land use, this is a document consisting of many specific areas such as transport, environmental protection, development of specific sites, but in the details it does not stipulate the construction development of a specific, given area. It is very important therefore that we make more precise zoning regulations to ensure that we have healthy, safe and comfortable living and working areas.”