The government has taken a decision to partially withdraw certain powers presently delegated to Local Authorities by the UDA Circular No 1 in 1985, to expedite behind the decision was neither a personal vendetta against the local authorities nor a way to earn income for the UDA. The UDA only wants to modernize the methods used in facilitating urban development activities, Dr. Munasinghe said.
“Of all development activities the local authorities are responsible for, the UDA receives only one percent. In Colombo, it will be a higher percentage. Most of these activities will be large scale urbanization programs. The local authorities will retain powers regarding housing and many other activities,” he said.
The UDA is to delegate the withdrawn powers as soon as urbanizing processes are properly organised and modernized, Dr. Munasinghe said.
“One of the withdrawn powers is the issuance of preliminary planning clearances for all development activities. Another is the building approvals issuing which includes application processing, charging fees and issuing approvals for selected activities,” Dr. Munasinghe said.The inefficiencies, delays, lack of transparency, timeworn technologies and malpractices involved in with the development activities carried out by the local authorities from 1985 to 2015, led to this temporary decision, Dr. Munasinghe said.He said a UDA survey revealed that malpractices amounting to billions of rupees have taken place in the development facilitating process under the local authorities.
Dr. Munasinghe said with a modernized process, the public will be able to get preliminary planning clearances within three weeks, if all correct documents are duly provided. He said the UDA is to establish their branches in all districts as a solution to the practical issues that may follow the new changes. The UDA is also responsible for constructing government buildings adopting the Green-concept, as an extension to President Maithripala Sirisena’s vision for sustainable development, Dr. Munasinghe said. The UDA is to provide information regarding the withdrawn powers in the authority’s website, he said.
Asked on the UDA’s action plan on illegal constructions in and out of Colombo, Dr. Munasinghe said the UDA has already sought legal action against for more than 1,000 cases in this regard.
“We have sought legal action against these illegal constructions. There are large scale illegal constructions in Colombo exceeding 2,000. If we consider slums and ghettos, the number rises to 40,000. With the tedious and lengthy legal process, the UDA has to spend a great amount of money on these cases,” Dr. Munasinghe said.