The pre-election measure the AKP government proclaims to be a “planning peace” covers, throughout Turkey, in addition to unlicensed buildings that have ownership and planning problems, licensed buildings to which extensions have been made contrary to planning legislation. Even if Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım suggests that this measure is a “planning peace” and not a “planning amnesty,” architects are of the view that this is a covert “planning amnesty.” I spoke about the mooted new measure with Chamber of Architects’ Chair Eyüp Muhcu. Muhcu, noting that the measure must be regarded while contemplating Turkey as a whole, says, “It legalises many illicit buildings from Reza Zarrab’s illicit waterside residence to the hotels at Cappadocia.”
Muhcu replied as follows to our questions about the controversial measure:
- How will this measure affect the citizen?
In 1984, at the time of Turgut Özal, a planning amnesty was mooted. The results of the negative effects the planning amnesty had on cities, the environment and vital spaces were seen. Public hostility towards planning amnesties was thus engendered. Nothing that was promised came to fruition. For example, it was said while proclaiming the planning amnesty that permission would never be given to illicit buildings thereafter. There have been illicit buildings each time following planning amnesties. This process has escalated further. Inequality and injustice between citizens has ensued. Citizens who respect the law have been penalised and the set that breaks the law has been rewarded. Planning amnesties have given rise to subsequent planning amnesties. Preventing illicit construction has always proved impossible. All cities, vital spaces, watercourses and coastal spaces, and areas in which there are total construction bans, have filled with illicit buildings and become uninhabitable.
“Blatant planning amnesty”
- It is said that the funds coming from this measure will be devoted to earthquake regeneration. How will this measure affect urban regeneration in Istanbul?
This is a blatant planning amnesty. It is being introduced covertly under the name of a planning peace. Earthquake is also being cited as a pretext. The creation of sound buildings does not come into play. Under the planning amnesty in question, illicit buildings that were made outside the rules and erected without public oversight will be registered as if they were sound and declared fit for occupation. The tall buildings that have been made in recent times and many buildings in which the Housing Development Administration has intermediated are being expedited without public oversight. Non-rule compliant extensions and extra floors are involved in these buildings. It is impossible to claim that they are safe in earthquake terms. It is also untrue that citizens’ injustices will be remedied, because the said procedure has no public policy aspect. The said planning amnesty will bring with it an intensifying of the occupation of public land and the making of new additional and illicit construction. We forecast that illicit practices will accelerate over the election period. The basic aim is to garner citizens’ votes over the election period. They aim to collect money from citizens to alleviate the economic crisis to a degree. Over the past sixteen years, non-rule compliant and unlawful construction has been expedited with the intervention of construction companies and certain capital groups that are protected by the ruling body. One of the basic and hidden aims is for all these buildings to be made legal. Another aim, in turn, is to create the infrastructure to facilitate the creation of new construction areas for large pro-regime construction companies which the Housing Development Administration intermediates through and protects.
Nature will pay the price
- What are these?
Hotels, malls, residential complexes and various commercial facilities have been made on natural and archeological protected sites. Notable among these are the five-star and seven-star hotels on the Bodrum peninsula. Many of these hotels were expedited with protection afforded by the government and ministry and in disregard of all the statutory rules. The same applies to many tourism facilities in coastal areas. The luxury hotels and commercial buildings at the Group 1 Archeological Protected Site of Cappadocia were also expedited under the same mentality. Mountain pastures of unequalled beauty in the East Black Sea such as Uzungöl and Ayder have been concreted over in the same manner. Under this law, promoted with duplicitous talk of rectifying the problems of aggrieved, poor and low-income citizens, essentially the interests of capital groups and contracting companies that the ruling body has created will be protected. Nature, history and cultural values will pay the price.
There are serious problems
- How will the buildings that impact negatively on the historical Bosphorous silhouette in Istanbul be affected by this measure?
Buildings that are either illicit or owe their existence to preferential construction rights have sprouted up in places where there are partial or total construction bans such as protected sites, archeological areas, coasts, straits or agricultural land. There are serious problems with the malls, residential complexes, hotels and commercial complexes on these sites. Legal proceedings have been brought against the buildings in question, plans have been annulled and buildings have attained full illicit status. Buildings whose plans have been annulled in lawsuits filed by professional organisations against investment decisions and that have attained illicit status will benefit from this. It will lead to civil-law cases collapsing and the judiciary being sidelined. In this context, the 1453 Homes plans were annulled following proceedings the chamber brought eight times. They also stand to benefit from the mooted planning amnesty. There is the prospect of many buildings on the Bophorous, not least Zarrab’s waterside residence with illicit floors, being made legal. The aim may be for Mehmet Cengiz’s historic mansion that has a view of the Bosphorous and was reduced to ashes in a suspect fire to be included in this amnesty. The aim is also to ensure that the high-density construction on the Ataköy coast and the 16.9 and similar skyscrapers that spoil Istanbul’s historical silhouette also benefit under this process.
Illicitness will increase
- Is there anything you wish to add?
The planning amnesty application period will continue until the year end. It is apparent that Turkey will fill with illicit buildings over the process of 24 June and the local elections slated for 2019. An application period of up to 31 December 2018 has been set. It is obvious that illicit buildings will become more numerous over this application period. There is a need for public administrations to take measures and for citizens to demonstrate their sensitivity. The claim that citizens’ injustices will be remedied through the planning amnesty is incorrect. However much the provision of electricity, water and similar public services to illicit buildings that are registered will be involved, at the end of the day, the making legal of these unlawful buildings is not what it is about. No law renders other planning-related statutes on citizens’ and environmental rights invalid. It is impossible for the protection law, laws on forestry and agriculture, the coast law and similar statutory regulations to be invalidated through the introduction of a planning amnesty.
Bakan Özhaseki: The citizen and state will forgive past sins
Minister for the Environment and Urbanisation, Mehmet Özhaseki, commented on the planning amnesty measure that is contained in the economic package announced prior to the early election and has been described as a “planning peace.” Özhaseki, noting that they expected income of 150 billion lira from the measure that he promoted saying, “The citizen and state will forgive past sins,” said they planned to devote this money to urban regeneration.
Özhaseki, making comments to journalists at the ministerial building, said that unlicensed and illicit buildings would be registered under the “planning peace” measure. Özhaseki spoke as follows:
“The lists of tenders that mayors have conducted contrary to the law will end. The social benefit is that the citizen and state will forgive past sins. The economic benefit is that treasury land will bring income to the treasury under the most beneficial model for the citizen. Citizens’ homes and business premises will become legal. Their use in economic terms will also become possible. Loans will be taken out against them. The second benefit is that taxes can be levied on homes and on business premises. In sum, we will obtain an income. This amount will be devoted to urban generation. We will give zero-interest loans with no repayment for three years to municipalities out of the income we obtain from this.”
To a journalist’s question, “In Istanbul in Avcılar there were as many as eight floors in a five-floor place, it went up an extra three floors. They made duplexes or additional floors. Is peace to be made over these things at the cost of three per cent? Will the situation on the Bosphorous be subject to the law?” Özhaseki said, “There is a penalty that the state has set, anyway, and we say three per cent. We are not forgiving. If you say the amount of the penalty is low or high, I cannot comment.” Özhaseki, pointing out that the citizens who are in trouble here are those who are in dispute with the state, explained that these people were in any case confronted with demolition and fines, and will now come into the position in which they can live there in peace by paying this amount.
As to whether there would be exceptions in this business, Özhaseki said, “We have currently not inserted an article on exceptions. There are many things here. I cannot conjecture whether an article on exceptions will be inserted while these things are undergoing debate at the Planning and Budgeting Commission.” On being reminded of the buildings contrary to legislation on the Bosphorous, Özhaseki stated that a study into the number of planning and occupancy violations that would emerge here put this at 0.01%. Özhaseki commented, “In sorting out the business of the 0.01%, it is absolutely not correct for something to be sacrificed on account of a unit. Anyhow, this will be given there with a payment well above its value being obtained.”