Islamabad - Capital Development Authority (CDA) has started preparing a policy and regulatory framework to resolve the prolonged issue of non-conforming use of residential units and ever-increasing encroachments in Islamabad - a growing challenge to the city’s beauty, said the sources on Friday.

The move comes in the aftermath of the continuing conflict between the Authority and the users of hundreds of residential units for commercial activities, which have finally landed in the Supreme Court.

Sources in the CDA said that the policy and framework will also include identification of the existing commercial spaces and development of new areas as per the city’s Master Plan to cater to the peculiar requirements of different categories of commercial undertakings that are currently utilising residential premises in Islamabad. The framework will also include the process as well as specific and fixed time for existing establishments to shift.

According to the documents exclusively available with The Nation, the chairman CDA has directed a fresh comprehensive survey to be undertaken to determine the non-conforming use and encroachments instances that exist now and directed the CDA’s Planning Wing to immediately initiate work on framing the new policy and regulatory framework. Under the move, CDA will actively involve all stakeholders in the preparation of the framework, representing different professional categories or business sectors including Islamabad Bar Council, Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, private schools association etc.

The sources said that three major categories as schools, offices including beauty parlors and other commercial activities would be defined separately so as to determine the nature of nuisance and utility of each sector and then frame a specific policy for each sector. At present, there are around 1,695 residential units being used for different kind of commercial activities in different parts of the city.

The sources further said that the policy would be put before the CDA Board in the next meeting for approval and once approved, it will be sent to the cabinet division and later submitted to the Supreme Court.

The framework will be enforced once promulgated without any discrimination or delay or concession of time to any party, the authority is determined.

In the meanwhile, the ongoing process of hearing notices issued in respect of non-conforming use will continue before the Deputy Commissioner CDA, however, no final decision shall be issued and no coercive enforcement action will be taken in respect of the existing non-conforming use until the policy and regulatory framework is promulgated. Furthermore, during this period, any fresh non-conforming usage shall not be permitted, the sources added.

Non-conforming use of residential units in the capital has become a major issue. Powerful property owners are considering them above the law while civic agency is looking helpless to do anything. Around 1695 cases of these properties are being contested by the allottees in the court of Deputy Commissioner, CDA.

The violators of land use norms also include national and international organisations. Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and other political parties are also among the land use norms’ violators, as the former’s central secretariat is located in a house at Sector G-6/2. The same goes for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz(PML-N) with its central office located at a residential unit of Sector F-8/3 and the Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Q, which also operate out of residential properties. Violators also include foreign missions of Lebanon, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Ukraine, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Oman, Afghanistan, Romania, Bahrain, Jordan, South Africa and Brazil. Perhaps, most of the private educational institutions in the city represent the second largest chunk of violators.

They include Beaconhouse, City School, Head Start, Roots and Froebel’s. Offices of the United Nations and NGOs have also their set-ups in residential areas.

Some restaurants, guesthouses, hospitals/clinics, beauty parlors/boutiques and embassies are still using residential houses for commercial purposes.