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No end to businesses in residential sectors

ISLAMABAD, March 25: The estate wing of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) has termed the 14 restaurants and 54 guesthouses in the residential sectors `illegal` but they are continuing their businesses unhindered, has learnt.

“We have issued notices to all these illegal businesses several times, but under political pressure, the CDA had never taken any action against them,” a senior official of the estate wing, requesting anonymity, said.

But an owner of a renowned restaurant in a posh sector maintained that his outlet was legal as it was in business for the last six years. “We have a business permit from the authority,” he claimed. “Our list of guest is long. It includes federal government officers, diplomats, and anyone who can pay to enjoy our delicious food.”

But the estate wing`s official quoted a clause from Islamabad Residential Sectors (Building Control) Regulations 2005, which says: “A house, apartment, flat in a residential building, may be used by its resident professional such as architect, town planner, lawyer, doctor, engineer etc. for `home occupation` with prior permission of the authority, provided the overall residential character of the building apartment is not changed and not more than two rooms/not more than 25 percent of covered area of the floor on which it is located.

Furthermore it shall not constitute, in any way, nuisance to the neighbours in any form as determined by the authority.”

Definitely a nuisance, says Amir Hayat, a resident of sector F-7 living near a restaurant. “Every night it seems a party is going on in my neigbhourhood. It`s a daily hazard but the CDA is least bothered.”

The official said over the last several years only nine plots have been cancelled over nonconforming use. After the cancellation for nonconforming use, the plot is sealed by the authority`s building control section and the owner has to defend his case before the deputy commissioner.

The official said regulations give powers to the deputy commissioner to seal residential premises used as business purposes. The authority also has powers to impose fines up to Rs500,000 and Rs5000 every day.

But regulations are seldom used to purge the residential sectors of business activities. The official said in the last ten years, more than 800 cases have been submitted to the deputy commissioner about restaurants, guesthouses, boutiques, beauty parlors, furniture and cloth shops, and even fitness centres and mini-hospitals in residential sectors.

“Only 175 cases have been resolved. The rest are pending.”

Ramzan Sajid, the spokesman for CDA, agreed: “Not a single business outlet in residential areas, be it a restaurant or a guesthouse, is legal. All this activity is in violation of Building Control Laws and this is non-conforming use of `plots`.”He said after Imtiaz Inayat Elahi has taken over as chairman, the authority was trying to `resolve` the matter. But he added that several restaurants had taken stay orders from courts and lack of proper pursuance had also led to few delays. “But now we are following a proper legal process to end the rising commercial activity in residential areas.”

He denied that the CDA chairman was facing political pressure over action against businesses in residential sectors. The spokesman said a special board meeting was held on this matter. “Hopefully restaurants and guesthouses will be completely closed down in residential areas.” But when? The spokesman had no answer.

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