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Nalchik residents appeal against construction of business centre

26 April 2019
A green space in Nalchik where construction is set to begin. (OC Media)

A group of residents of Nalchik, the capital of the Russian Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, have appealed to the authorities against the construction of a business centre in their yard. Local residents told OC Media that permission for the building was granted without the required public consultations.

On 19 April, residents of two buildings in Nalchik appealed against a plan to construct a business centre in their common courtyard, in a letter addressed to Mayor Teymuraz Akhokhov and the City Hall. The appeal appeared on the Facebook page of public organisation Respublika — Obshcheye Dyelo (‘Republic is a common affair’), and, according to residents, was signed by around 200 people.

According to the appeal, the construction ‘will create unfavourable conditions’ for residents of nearby buildings and will lead to increased traffic, worsening the local environment.

‘Our children will lose their already small space for games’ one resident told OC Media.

The authors of the appeal referred to a 2010 ruling by the Russian Constitutional Court, which states that the right to local self-government must include ‘identifying and taking into account the opinion of the population on issues affecting their living and living conditions’.

Lack of public consultation

In November 2018, the city administration of Nalchik issued a 49-year lease on the area between the two buildings. Local residents said they only learned about the agreement five months after the government had signed the lease.

Khadzhimurat Khakuashev, the chairman of Respublika — Obshcheye Dyelo, told OC Media that municipal land should only be transferred on a competitive basis and that the administration should notify the public about such transfers through the media.

‘There were no announcements or messages about the upcoming tender neither in newspapers, on the website of the mayor’s office, nor in other media’, Khakuashev said.

Several residents of the buildings told OC Media that they learned about the planned construction from a poster placed near one of the entrances. According to the poster, the mayor’s office invited residents of the buildings to take part in hearings related to the construction. According to local activists, this announcement was posted three days before the hearing, not two weeks, as is required by law.

Local lawyer Anzor told OC Media that the fact that the authorities kept the tender secret, or backdated papers regarding it, may have been unlawful, as well as the late notice about public hearings.

According to one local resident, residents were also upset that the hearings were held not in order to obtain the consent of residents for the construction, but in order to increase the size of the construction.

Irina Podgornaya, the head of the homeowners’ association for one of the buildings, told OC Media that at the public hearings in the mayor’s office, local residents ‘spoke out sharply against any construction on the designated territory’.

‘Today, our appeal has been sent not only to the mayor's office but also to the city prosecutor Zalim Tlostanov and head of the republic Kazbek Kokov’, she added.

‘The administration has acted unethically’

According to the protesting residents, the permission granted by the city administration for the building is contrary to the General Plan of Nalchik and the decision of the mayor's office to create a green space on this site.

According to Respublika — Obshcheye Dyelo chair Khadzhimurat Khakuashev, back in 2014, the group suggested that the mayor’s office create several squares and green areas in Nalchik on this and two other sites.

He said that activists offered to plant chestnut, red oak and other saplings in these places and that then-Mayor Mukhamed Kodzokov ‘warmly supported’ their initiative, and several hundred chestnut seedlings were planted by around 100 people, including the city authorities.

‘We didn’t choose the sites to create the squares. They were determined by the administration staff themselves’, Khakuashev said.

However, according to Khakuashev, the city administration soon leased out one of the areas and the trees were destroyed.

‘The city administration at the very least acted unethically’, Khakuashev said.

Local architect Khabas Shogenov told OC Media that, according to Nalchik’s master plan, business centres and shopping centres are allowed to be built in this area along with the supporting infrastructure.

‘That is, the tenant has the right to build a business centre on the territory they rent’. According to Shogenov, it would be possible to prohibit construction in the designated area only if this place were a historically significant area.