Validity of building permits could be extended to mitigate virus impact

THE validity of building permits could be extended by six months to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) on the construction sector, it has emerged.

Currently, the permits issued by the Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Ministry are valid for 12 months.

The proposal for an extension, spearheaded by Capital Trustees Board chairman Saleh Tarradah, was unanimously approved at the board’s meeting yesterday.

If ratified by Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Minister Essam Khalaf, the move would cover the Capital Governorate, but he could extend it to the other three governorates.

Under the existing conditions, if work on a building does not start within 12 months of the permit being issued, then the builder has to apply and pay for a new permit.

Board members also approved another urgent proposal by Mr Tarradah to defer deposits for building permits for investment projects by up to six months.

“Construction work is not progressing as planned, either due to workers being unavailable for various reasons related to Covid-19 or quarantine procedures being enforced,” said Mr Tarradah.

“It is taking longer to maker alternative arrangements and projects which were expected to start in the first quarter of this year have been pushed back until the situation returns to normal.

“The issue is out of people’s hands and it would be unfair for builders to restart the lengthy government process of reapplying and repaying for new permits.

“The six-month extension will help sort the matter out,” he said.

Mr Tarradah said the municipal system has rejected investment projects worth large amounts of money because some GCC nationals were unable to pay the deposits.

“Kuwaitis and Saudis are living under curfew and they can’t even go to banks to sort out payments.

“A GCC investor with a huge project who was asked to pay BD67,000 as a deposit was unable to do so via phone because such a large amount can’t be transferred to Bahrain within the 10-day deadline for deposit payment for investment projects.

“His application for a building permit, through a Bahraini engineering consultant, was thus rejected and thrown out.

“Whether the particular investor will be interested again in the project is doubtful, but we don’t want to lose millions because the current system is out of date compared to what’s going on around us.”

The GDN previously reported that municipal fees and rents have been dropped for three months until June under government initiatives.

Meanwhile, board members also unanimously approved a proposal to give rubbish bags for three months rather than every month, to ensure that people don’t have an excuse to get out of their homes.

“We want people to stay at home to combat the spread of Covid-19 and here we have a distribution system that still gives bags monthly, whether in municipal offices or vending machines,” said Mr Tarradah.

“We are not saying six months as we don’t want to exhaust stocks early, we are more concerned about reducing frequent visits.”




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