Main News

Like ruins of Troy: why Ukrainian cities and villages can not develop normally


Construction on bones, in protected areas or even in a main gas pipeline area is a common practice in Ukraine. Someone blames greedy developers, while others – corrupt authorities. In addition, experts say that another huge problem is a lack of urban planning documentation of settlements.

Ukrainian cities and villages are still using general plans, which have been already outdated 20 or even more years ago. For example, a general plan of one of the villages in Zaporizhia region is dated 1965. It looks just as such – like a plan of ancient Troy’s excavations. And that is the document defining basic lines of development, planning, construction and use of the village’s territory.

Unfortunately, this is not the only case. Experts of the Better Regulation Delivery Office say that 64% of existing territory planning schemes, which are a type of urban planning documentation, were developed in the days of the Soviet Union.

Is it appropriate in 2018 and what does this situation practically lead to? The experts and, in fact, those, who should take care of eliminating such examples were asked about this.

There is nothing to open in open data

Since last May, all urban planning documents, which include territory planning schemes and general plans, have gained the status of open data.

However, it turned out that there was nothing to open, because one-third of settlements, for example, have no general plans. The ones available are mostly “unreadable”. And as the Construction Sector Head at the Better Regulation Delivery Office Olena Shulyak said, to find them is quite the challenge, since they are published on hundreds of websites of local and village councils, state administrations, etc.

The expert says that to improve this situation in some way, the BRDO Office launched the Participatory Spatial Planning project last autumn, and the pMAP portal, where all active links to existing information on urban planning documents will be collected soon, is currently functioning in the test mode.

While collecting and analyzing the information, we have identified a lot of problems that have a direct impact on the city and village life and are related to urban planning documentation. For example, this means the planning of landfill sites (landfills to store municipal solid waste (MSW). As Olena Shulyak said, it turned out that village councils had already allocated the land, and it was very difficult to provide a land plot for this purpose, so only the development of territory planning schemes could help.

Neither spontaneous landfills nor investors

Oleh Kryvtsov, the chief architect of the Sumy region, also says that updated urban planning documents could become an effective tool to solve an acute waste management problem. He estimated that now more than 90% of landfills to store municipal solid waste (MSW) located in his native Sumy region were not included in the urban planning documentation.

“There are many spontaneous landfills, but even the “legal” ones were not included in territory planning schemes of districts. This led to the fact that a local landfill near the Lebedyne village is located dangerously close to the main gas pipeline,” Kryvtsov said.

“The situation with burial grounds for cattle, which are not included in the plans, is also difficult. As a result, no one takes into account sanitary protection zones when planning the residential development. These violations of state building codes can lead to an emergency,” Kryvtsov said.

The architect also admits that a vast majority of urban planning documents is extremely outdated and does not meet the requirements of the current legislation. Like no one else, he is aware of the consequences of such a situation.

According to Kryvtsov, today settlements of the Sumy region, without considering the cities of regional importance, are provided only with 49.6% of urban planning documentation. And 70% of this documentation was developed before 1992. Such a situation badly affects not only the development of the region, but also its investment attractiveness.

“Recently, we had an unpleasant experience, when a serious investor would like to build a bioethanol plant in one of our villages. But when he learned that the general plan was outdated and it was unknown for how long he would have to wait for the development of the new one, he changed his mind,” Oleh Kryvtsov explained.

However, there are also some positive examples. In particular, a new general plan allowed the Sumy city to raise over 16.8 million euros in the construction and equipping of the baby food packaging factory “Hualapak Ukraine”, which started operating last year.

Olena Shulyak said that the lack of general plans was a brake not only for foreign investors, but for our own domestic investors as well. “Some enterprise would like to expand its capacity through the reconstruction or new construction, but it will be refused without a general plan. That is why both foreign investors and domestic businesses are ready to deal with the cities and villages that have updated urban planning documents,” the expert says.

The availability and accessibility of urban planning documentation greatly simplifies and reduces the time to register land documents, obtain technical specifications and output data for the design, construction and commissioning of facilities. But if a general plan is outdated, then investments can be compared to a blind bargain, because the outdated general plan may not correspond to the actual situation, and the construction project implementation may face with the problems that investors have no idea about.

For example, outdated general plans do not include the utility networks installed after their development. This leads to the fact that land plots are allocated for residential development in protected zones of utility lines or sometimes even directly on them.

“Near Sumy, ATO participants were provided with land plots in the protected zone of the main high-pressure gas pipeline. This circumstance was known after the decision was made. Now this is the pressing problem. If the Sumy region had a modern territory planning scheme, this could have been avoided,” Kryvtsov provided a vivid example.

The money makes the rules

Experts say that a lack of funding for local programs on the urban planning documentation development as well as programs on the creation and maintenance of an urban planning cadastre is a main problem of updating the documentation.

Oleh Kryvtsov believes that territorial schemes and general plans should be developed solely at the expense of local communities.

“Yes, there are the cases when the business pays for the development of general plans. But it often happens the way as in the saying – he who makes the money makes the rules, which in reality can turn into a dictate of business interests and ignoring the needs of communities. Therefore, it is very important that local self-government authorities take the initiative and provide funding,” Kryvtsov says.

Olena Shulyak also believes that local authorities can and should take on the responsibility for the development of updated urban planning documentation. The question is in the proactivity of these authorities themselves and the community that elected them.

Olena Shulyak said that the experts have collected all information on the pMAP platform as it is presented in web resources in the regions for now. But they hope that in the future, the regions will be involved in this initiative and change the situation for the better together. For this purpose, common standards on graphical and text content of this documentation are being developed now. In addition, they began to create profiles for the regions to allow local specialists publishing their information there in a single format independently. The Sumy region became a pilot region, and we hope to make sure in the near future that everything is possible if desired.

By Yanina Tkachuk