When four years ago, as an association of citizens, we were actively involved in monitoring the process of drafting a regulatory plan for the central area of Banja Luka, we had no idea that this process could take inexplicable and radical changes in the coming period.
In the meantime, there was a change of city government in the city of Banja Luka and the new administration announced a new era in the fight against the so-called tycoons and their direct influence on local administration.
There have also been changes in planning of the city center. The once announced shopping center (on the site of the famous “hole”) – which seemed not to belong to the old city center was through a process of spatial planning during the previous administration, and thanks to pressure from experts and the general public turned into a series of residential and commercial buildings (up to 6 floors). Respecting the recommendations of the profession, a competition was announced for the conceptual solutions of this important area for the visual identity of the city, but also the quality of life in it.
Through a strange and vague, but also extremely non-transparent process, in the last one and a half year, a building has sprung up in the area of the “hole”, which was said from the very beginning that there will be no officially prescribed five floors, but it will double.
Then, on several occasions, we officially asked the City Administration for informations and grounds for construction, but the answers were short and referred to the fact that everything is according to regulations, and that the current construction is actually in accordance with spatial planning documentation.
The first real official response was a new draft of regulatory plan for the city center of Banja Luka.
This regulatory plan confirms the rumors. The announced NO to investor planning by the new city administration turned into a big YES. Planned residential area in the narrowest part of the city, of enormous dimensions (11-12 floors). Why did this change occur? Neither the general public nor the professional public has an answer to that. It is certain that the answer lies with the city administration and the investor, who obviously lobbied very successfully for his interest.
Apartments under construction can already be bought. Probably the first tenants are already registering property rights in the ownership books, although the regulatory plan on the basis of which this residential complex could be built has not passed public inspection and adoption.
Has the appearance of the historic city center been permanently damaged by giant apartment buildings? What quality of life will the residents have in the yard of the new apartment block that will visually suffocate the center, create additional traffic jams, add a few more degrees Celsius to the already overheated microclimatic conditions of the center?
The construction of the monument, planned by this draft, at the location of the parking lot near Kraš, before the establishment of the public garage planned through the draft urban plan at the same location, is a waste of money. Also, it is important to note that the construction of new monuments in general, while some of the existing ones with already great cultural and historical significance are in a very bad condition, is of secondary importance. Insight into the conceptual design of the monument, we believe that a monument of this size is rather a place in a location that is not surrounded by other built structures, or on a large clean area.
The “Banski dvor”, as a protected building, would be damaged in its view by the construction of any building in the immediate vicinity. In this particular case, it is an auxiliary religious building of the Serbian Orthodox Church. This building, although located in the cadastral parcel owned by the Serbian Orthodox Church, cannot be viewed as an element decided solely by the owner (in this case the Serbian Orthodox Church), but as a building located on the square, which is a common property and cultural asset of the city and citizens. The justification for the construction of an ancillary facility, if provable at all, could be the subject of this Draft exclusively at an alternative location. Finally, in addition to the fact that this planned auxiliary building of the church distorts the view of the “Banski dvor”, it also distorts the view of the church itself, obscuring its prominence from the ground floor of the square.
This draft amendment to the regulatory plan is another in a series of those that dismantle, disrupt and disintegrate the appearance and functionality of Banja Luka. We believe that it is necessary to revise this draft once again, in order to find the best possible solutions to improve the quality of life of citizens. Also, we believe that it is necessary to extend the deadline for public insight, and organize a public presentation, in order to collect the best possible comments and suggestions from all stakeholders in this procces.
Will the residents, this time as well, just silently watch how the city shape their investment policies, and the public administration agrees to the pressure of investors !?
These and many other comments have already been sent to the City Administration, as well as a request to hold a public presentation and extend the deadline for the public Insight. Also, we hereby invite citizens, as well as all other interested persons, to submit their suggestions – it is a question of the identity of the city in which we all live!