Bangkok Zoning plan comes under fire

Construction News

New rules to cover building are derided by experts

A new city zoning plan soon to come into force has former Bangkok governor candidates up in arms and threatening to take City Hall to court.

With the backing of other prominent citizens and experts, they are puzzled by the intended restrictions on certain types of construction within the city’s boundaries covering high-rise building and homes for those not so well-off.

Eight failed candidates from the March3 Bangkok governor election have been busy gathering signatures to back their call for parliament to step in and veto the five-year city plan set to come into effect on Thursday.

The group, led by Sopon Pornchokchai, has also petitioned Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Bangkok governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra and relevant ministers to look into their complaint.

Mr Sopon says the plan will impose restrictions on the construction of tall buildings in commercial areas of Bangkok.

He said high-rises should be allowed in the business locations of the city to optimise land use. That way, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration could collect more property taxes.

Mr Sopon, who says the group protesting the plan is backed by 108 experts on city zoning and real estate, said all of those questioning the new plan fail to see the justification for the rules to control the growth of land development in commercial areas, including the bustling Sukhumvit Road.

What needs particular clarification, he says, is why the city wants to prohibit the construction of new townhouses in Residential Zone 2 – Pathumwan, Sathon, Bang Rak and Watthana – where many middle and low-income people live.

If brought into law, this rule will force people to move away from the zone and resettle in suburbs far from the convenience of downtown transport.

Mr Sopon, who is chairman of the Thai Appraisal Foundation, a non-profit group which seeks to lift standards in the property sector in line with protection of consumers, says the plan does nothing to promote the expansion of public parks.

Bangkok has a lot less green space than most other metropolises. Current statistics show the green area per person is limited to 4.65 sq m, significantly less than other large cities, he said.

City Hall’s plan contains no concrete measures to prevent floods such as building of riverside embankments or water gates to manage high tides and water diversion canals.

Mr Sopon said riverside communities need all the protection they can get against the influx of run-off from the North.

Mr Sopon said the group has discussed the possibility of seeking an Administrative Court injunction to temporarily halt the city plan.

Panyaphat Nopphan, deputy chief of the City Planning Department, insists the new city zoning plan is what Bangkok needs. She said the plan will correspond well to urban development of the capital where a web of electric rail transport systems is being built.

The plan will motivate landlords and land developers to build residential areas for low-income earners and energy-saving buildings as well as develop land to facilitate access to the rail transport services.

The plan will also turn parts of Bang Sue, Ramkhamhaeng and Min Buri into commercial zones served by electric rail networks. This will stimulate economic growth of the city.

Ms Panyaphat said more green space will be added.

Areas near Lam Phang Phuai lake in Bung Kum district and the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly’s lake in Klong Toey district will be designated as new lungs of the city.

The plan also sets strict rules against encroachment and alteration of the course of waterways in order to prevent flooding, she said.

Above all, she added, the new city zoning plan – which has been continually drafted since late 2010 to replace the current one that has been in use since 2006 – has been subjected to public consultations.

“It has gone through many rounds of public hearings,” Ms Panyaphat said.

However, the group of former governor candidates has vowed to keep fighting. “We are gathering 10,000 signatures to petition the House to stop and review this city zoning plan,” Mr Sopon said.


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