Luhansk and Kherson Join Together for an Electronic Roundtable to Discuss Issues of Public Access to Urban Planning Documents
On October 30, 2013 an electronic roundtable was conducted, “Access to Public Information and Specific Land Use Relations.” The event was jointly organized by the Luhansk Center for Postgraduate Education and the Kherson Regional Training Center. Both organizations conduct retraining and advanced training for public authorities, local government representatives, state enterprises, institutions, and organizations.
The event was attended by engineers, surveyors for village councils, managers and specialists from land use departments, representatives from local councils responsible for land resources, lawyers, and social activists. The expert speakers were from the Luhansk Regional State Administration, the Derzhzemahenstva main offices in both areas, and specialists from the Eastern-Ukrainian Center for Civic Initiatives.
During the event, participants discussed practical aspects of implementing the provisions of Ukrainian legislation that requires that urban planning documents be made accessible to the public. In particular, the lawyer for the Eastern-Ukrainian Center for Civic Initiatives, Vadim Sabinin, told the audience about recent legislative changes. On 16 September 2013, the Minister of the Department of Regional Development, Construction, and Housing excluded large-scale maps from the list of information considered proprietary information. This information constitutes the basis for comprehensive city plans.
"Now Ukraine’s Ministry of Regional Development and the Design Institutes can no longer justify the use of the stamp 'For Official Use Only' on the general plans of cities. Urban planning documentation should now be declassified," Sabinin said.
During the discussion, an alternative view was expressed by Yevgeny Pozhidayev, the head of the state land cadaster and the Main Directorate of the Derzhzemahenstva in the Luhansk Oblast. The official said that Ukrainian citizens do not need access to urban planning documents, because they do not have the expertise or the level of education to allow them to understand these documents.
"By law, planning documentation is public information, and therefore should be in the public domain," said Viktor Filippovskyy, Assistant Professor of Administration at the East Ukrainian National University named after V. Dahl, and a member of the Eastern-Ukrainian Center for Civic Initiatives.
Also speaking at the event was Peace Corps volunteer, Eileen Kelly. She spoke about the practice of urban planning in the United States and summed up her thoughts about the situation.
“Now in Ukraine, the laws are clear and citizens can have access to city plans and map information. It is time to educate officials about their responsibilities to provide this information. And, citizens need to exercise their civic responsibilities and request this information. It took time to create the processes that are now used; it will take time to change to new behaviors, but now there is a firm legal footing from which to begin.”
The activities of the Eastern-Ukrainian Center for Civic Initiatives are aimed at ensuring the availability of comprehensive city plans for citizens. This work is part of the project, "Citizen Action Network for the Declassification of Comprehensive City Plans and the Elimination of Corruption in Urban Planning"and is supported by the International Renaissance Foundation's Rule of Law Program.