What Is New with Raqqa’s Zoning Plan?
The municipality of Raqqa (known as the “People’s Municipality,” part of the majority-Kurdish Autonomous Administration in North and East Syria–AANES) has issued a zoning plan for the city and presented it to the Local Administrations and Environment Authority, which serves as a governmental ministry. The body approved the city plan on July 7. Work will begin in September to implement the new zoning plan, after obtaining final approval and studying any public objections.
Joint President of the People’s Municipality in Raqqa Ahmad Ibrahim told The Syria Report that it could take more than five years to implement the new zoning plan, adding that implementation was tied to “the extent of citizens’ cooperation,” as the area included within the plan is public property of the Syrian state.
According to Ibrahim, the municipality’s dispute resolution committee has received 120 objections to the zoning plan so far, some of which were approved and responded to. He added that the judicial office doors remain open for final adjudication on objections that received no response, and that “if the grievance of any citizen is confirmed, he will be compensated”.
This is the first zoning plan to be issued by the Raqqa municipality since the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took control of the city in late 2017, expelling the Islamic State (IS). The new plan is an expansion of a previous plan for the city from before 2011 that measured four by six kilometres. The old plan extended from the Euphrates riverbed to the railroad track, and from the Al-Mashlab Checkpoint to the Al-Sibahiyeh Checkpoint.
The need for a new zoning plan stems from the large-scale destruction Raqqa witnessed during the battles with IS in 2017. The lack of safe housing, coupled with demand for homes, has caused informal urban expansion in Raqqa’s northern and southern suburbs. The new plan is meant to regulate urban expansion and prevent the spread of unlicensed, informal construction in the city. Raqqa is today home to 350,000-400,000 people.
In January 2021, the Raqqa municipality launched a campaign to demolish dozens of homes and shops that it described as being in violation of construction codes in the northern part of the city. The first phase of demolitions targeted more than 15 residential and commercial properties that had been constructed on state owned land in the Andalus neighbourhood, as well as the area around the Hazimeh Roundabout and the Agricultural Airport Road. The municipality said that it demolished the properties, which were located in the zoning area after meeting with residents and explaining the plan to them.
The Syria Reportspoke with a man who submitted an objection to the People’s Municipality after the demolition of his home, which consisted of two bedrooms and a salon, near the Al-Sunbulah Roundabout. The committee rejected his objection. According to Ibrahim, no property is demolished unless it is confirmed to be a “building violation” (a building that does not comply with construction codes). He added that the properties so far demolished were those that were constructed after the first topographical survey conducted by a team of People’s Municipality surveyors in 2019. On January 13, 2020, the AANES-run Legislative Council in Raqqa issued a decree prohibiting the disposal of public properties in the city after 2013. Any actions in violation of the decree would be considered not to have occurred, and all legal effects nullified.
The objections submitted to the dispute resolution committee centred around the municipality’s expropriation, through the deduction of private properties under Urban Planning Law No. 23 of 2015, which is in force in Damascus. The Raqqa municipality followed this law due to the absence of laws on urban planning in the AANES.
The private properties that were expropriated in Raqqa under the law were seized for the public benefits, including the construction of schools, roads, parks, and hospitals. Ibrahim explained that the legal percentage determined for deduction is 50 per cent in areas close to the city centre and 40 per cent in other areas. If more than thaExplained: Law No. 23 of 2015 – Seizure of Propert percentage is deducted, then the affected parties will be compensated.