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UDA’s corruption and harassment to developers! : By E.H. Pemaratne Attorney at Law /Town Planner

The Urban Development Authority (UDA) has again amended the set of regulations gazetted on March 10 1986, which is used to test the regularity of development activities carried out within UDA areas and grant or reject approval.

The new amendments

Amendments apply to regulations 8, 9, and 61. The numerous errors both in the format and wordings etc of the notification creates doubt as to whether these new regulations have been submitted to the Legal Draughtsman’s Department for advice and formatting. It has introduced the following amendments:

1.   In regulation 8 which deals with categories of buildings, amendments have been made to building categories B and C. In fact in category B only the sub paragraph (ii) has been amended and so to call this an amendment of the total sub-regulation is incorrect. It has been amended by substituting only the words

“not more than four floors” for the words “ two or more floors” in the earlier regulations. Therefore as far as this regulation is considered the amendment is partial

2.  Drastic amendments have however been made, to building category-C in the same regulation.

Firstly instead of one category consisting of “residential building which does not exceed 300 sq. meters of floor area” in this category, the amendment has introduced three sub-categories. They are:-

a)      Category C-I “any building which is used for residential purposes and shall not exceed five hundred sq. meters in extent and consisting of G+2 floors which does not fall into category B”

b)      Category C-II “any building which is used for purposes other than residential and does not exceed 300 sq. meters in extent and consisting up to G+2 floors which is not covered under category B

c)      Category C-III “any building which is used for:-

i)        Residential purpose and does not exceed 300 hundred sq. meters in extent and consisting up to G+1floor which does not fall under Category B”

ii)      For purposes other than residential and does not exceed one hundred sq. meters in extent and consisting up to G+1 floor which does not fall under category B”

a)      This amendment is unprofessional, careless and funny. The amendment has been made to category C in Regulation 8 of the notification dated March 10, 1986. According to it, category C includes “any residential building which does not exceed three hundred sq. meters in extent which is not covered by Category B. Category B in that gazette included the buildings with one or more of the following elements.

i)  Basement-roofs, foundations, beams and other related parts of the buildings;.

ii) Two or more floors including the ground floor where a wall or column is situated on the property boundary ;

iii)  pile or raft foundations ;or roof span exceeding ten meters;

iv)  a place of public assembly or a public building;

v)   a building which is wind sensitive such as a warehouse or factories;

vi)  and any other category of buildings not covered under categories A and C; .

Earlier regulations

The earlier Regulations though illegal were drafted by Indian experts who were assigned to the UDA by the UNDP. They were at least careful not to make a public authority a laughing stock by avoiding framing of jocular regulations. Under category C I and II of the new regulations all buildings can be up to three floors while category CIII permits only up to two floors including the ground floor and so naturally involve beams and foundations requiring structural plans. But in the partially repealed regulation, only single storey buildings not exceeding 300 meters were permitted under category “C” This permitted the people to have the plan drawn by any person. But as provided in the amendment building plans of category C-I, and C-II need to accompany structural plans only at the discretion of the UDA while in case of C-III it is not necessary at all.

According to the amended Regulation 9 all building plans of category A and B should accompany structural plans while in case of category C I and II such plans need be submitted only if the UDA so requires. Regulation 9(4) and (5) requires the submission of service plans signed by qualified persons relating to water supply, sewerage, drainage, rain water harvesting and electricity supply plans in case of buildings of A and B categories and if the authority requires in case of category C I and II also, while insist on air condition expert plans in case of all buildings under Reg. 9.. The unqualified discretion given to the UDA and the Local authorities to which the UDA planning powers and functions have been devolved is day a light invitation to heavy corruption. Local authorities are the most corrupted public institution in the country though not much known even to the Transparency International.

Local authority

The above regulation seems to be purposely made to satisfy the local authority and UDA Technical Staff and the politicians who are extremely corrupt and have taken law into their own hands. Any person who is in their good books can now draw plans of these three categories regardless of his qualifications. Outside Colombo, category C is the most prevalent. Such a wide discretion is against the legal principle that confines use of the discretion to the four corners of the law by provisos.

Funny schedules

There are two funny schedules given under Reg. 61 which refers to “specifications and other requirements set out in Schedule- VII (Parts-I, II and III).Of the three Part-I gives only the uses and type of buildings Under Uses column uses of residential, commercial, industrial and institutional are given. Against the institutional use in this column government and semi government buildings also have been shown as requiring the submission of plans. Doesn’t the UDA know that in 2000 government and semi government agencies which also were required to adhere to UDA planning requirements under the 1982 Amendment of the Law, were exempted from it. Despite this still the UDA continues to compel public institutions to obtain Planning Clearance. This attempt of the UDA was highlighted in the media when they compelled the Medical Superintendent of Matara Hospital to seek UDA approval for shifting a gate, but later withdrew when the MS explained the law to them.; Schedule titled Part-III gives only a format with headings and blank cages . What can a developer gather from this? Clarity, un- ambiguity and freedom from prejudice are basic attributes of good law. These regulations chronically suffer from them and so are bad in law. It is deplorable that the Minister has chosen to be a laughing stock consequent to the low quality work of the UDA Planners. Doesn’t the Board of Management of the UDA and the Secretary to the Minister who is finally accountable, scrutinise these documents before going for the Minister’s sanction.?

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