Bahrain to lift construction ban in district
Manama, May 27, 2012
A seven-year ban on construction in old neighbourhoods of Muharraq in Bahrain will be lifted starting July, said a municipal council official.
The Muharraq Municipal Council last year lowered the bar, giving out home and building permits on a case by case basis, but it now wants to scrap the ban altogether and draw up new criteria and restrictions for building in the area.
However, the Culture Ministry objected to the plan, saying it would harm the identity of old Muharraq.
Ministry archaeology and heritage director Dr Abdulla Al Sulaiti told councillors they had reached an agreement with the Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry to protect the old neighbourhoods and at the same time allow urbanisation, but the deal could be at jeopardy as the latter wants to fully develop the area.
Councillors decided to hold an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday to approve the new regulations drawn up by the Culture Ministry and submit them to the council's technical committee for review.
"During our meetings with the Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry an agreement was reached on how things should be done to allow urbanisation in old Muharraq neighbourhoods, but they were neglected in the draft presented to the council," said Dr Al Sulaiti.
"For example, we said the maximum height for new buildings should be 10 metres, while the ministry says 13 metres and that will just kill the view of the area. The more buildings go up, the more is lost from Muharraq's identity.
"We don't want to see what has happened to the old Manama Suq area happen here, in which we have signs of old neighbourhoods but nothing in the place indicates its importance and value."
Dr Al Sulaiti explained how old Muharraq was the only remaining town in the GCC that had maintained the country's history and heritage - all the more reason to preserve it.
"Abu Dhabi, Doha and Kuwait want to restore their original neighbourhoods after years of loss and here we have a real model in Muharraq, which some want to destroy rather than protect," he said.
Dr Al Sulaiti said any dilapidated home in the area would be restored to its original architectural design, with funds from the ministry.
"We have nothing against knocking down dilapidated homes or with people wishing to tear down and build new ones, but they have to match Muharraq's original historic architectural designs and we will fund the difference," he said.
"The ministry wants people to live in their homes and not go elsewhere because they are also important to showcase true belonging.
"We are currently building a multi-storey car park to help provide parking for old Muharraq neighbourhood residents and based on its success it will be applied in other locations as well."
Meanwhile, council chairman Abdulnasser Al Mahmeed said it was high time for the ban to be lifted as many were negatively affected by it.
"We want to remove the ban because it has gone on for too long, but we have to take into consideration that Muharraq's old neighbourhoods wouldn't be the same if we allowed development without proper restrictions," he said.
"Whatever the Culture Ministry gives us as urbanisation regulations we will accept, in the end, we want to strike a balance between history and modernity ensuring that everyone benefits." – TradeArabia News Service
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