From 25-26 November 2013, NALAS Task Force on Urban Planning met in Skopje, Macedonia to discuss the current urban planning challenges in South-East Europe. Task Force members informed each other about the recent developments in their countries in regards with urban planning, ongoing national and municipal projects most relevant to urban planning, as well as the role their Local Government Associations have in these processes.
A few of the Task Force members that took part in the meeting reported that their countries (Macedonia, Croatia, Albania) undergo a process of legalization of illegal buildings. Hundreds of thousands applications have been filed for legalization in the past two years and only 5-10% of them have been decided upon. As of June 2013, Macedonia launched electronic issuing of building permits, which became obligatory as of 1 November 2013. Turkey currently implements several huge projects related to urban development in the Bosporus, including the third airport in Istanbul, bridges, underground road infrastructure, etc. A few of the countries experience discussions for new territorial organization, or regionalization, in most of the cases without considering the opinion of the local authorities. Therefore, the group shared a bitter feeling that the SEE Region might be facing implicit wave of centralization.
Task Force members got the chance to learn more about the new NALAS Strategic Plan (2013-2017) , the plans for further development of the NALAS Knowledge Centre, and the important role that Task Forces have in the NALAS Knowledge System. The Task Force also brainstormed on the focus that they should have to contribute in advancing the Urban Planning practices throughout the SEE region.
Territorial development and territorial attractiveness in the context of municipal urban planning were also in the focus of the meeting. The Attract SEE project and its partners attended part of the Task Force Meeting and explained their activities to improve understanding of comprehensive territorial dynamics and coordination among different public policies to achieve territorial cohesion and other development goals at all levels (transnational, national, regional and local). The ATTRACT SEE Project aims to develop tools and approaches, improve the competence and skills needed to monitor and understand interrelated territorial trends, and to incorporate the acquired knowledge into an integrated policy development process.
The meeting of the Task Force in Urban planning also included a visit to the Association of Local Self-Government Units of Macedonia (ZELS). This NALAS member succeeded to completely digitalize all administrative procedures pertaining from Law on Construction, including: issuing of building permits, reconstruction and superstructure permits, requests for issuing a permit for building use, requests for approval of a preliminary project, requests for changes during the construction, requests for change of an investor, requests for approval of preparatory works, requests for conversion approval, requests for issuing a reconstruction approval, requests for issuing an approval for adaptation and requests for issuing a decision to carry out a construction for which no building permit is required.
The five NALAS Task Forces in: Urban Planning, Energy Efficiency, Fiscal Decentralization, Water and Solid Waste and Sustainable Tourism are at the heart of NALAS, bringing together the best experts from the region, competent associations’ staff and professionals employed in the local government administration, who are directly facing the consequences and challenges coming from policies and laws which define the system of local government. NALAS Task Forces have a key role in knowledge production and dissemination.