EPC opposes changes to Town and Country Planning Act

By Chris Kamalendran

The Eastern Provincial Council is not in favour of the proposed government policy where lands could be defined as protection areas, conservation zones or places of archaeological or historic value.
The EPC’s opposition has come after Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa circulated the proposed amendments to the Town and Country Planning Act among provincial councils for their consent. This followed a Supreme Court ruling that such consent is required.

The amendments propose the formation and implementation of a National Physical Planning Policy with the objective of promoting, preserving, conserving and regulating a system of integrated planning in relations to the economic, social, historic, environmental, physical and religious aspects of land.
The amendments will facilitate the acquisition of lands to achieve the objectives under the National Physical Planning Policy.

Under the amendments, Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs Minister will be able to notify the Minister to whom the subject of Physical Planning has been assigned and define a land as a ‘sacred area’.Under the proposed amendments, an area could be declared a protection area, ‘conservation area, archaeological or historic area through a gazette notification.

The proposed amendments were also the topic of discussion at a recent Western Provincial Council party leaders’ meeting where the opposition parties decided to oppose them. WPC opposition Leader Manju Sri Arangala told the Sunday Times the United National Party decided to oppose the amendments because it feared that the law could be misused to acquire even private lands. Eastern Provincial Council member K. Thurairatnam said the proposed amendments would take away land powers vested in PCs under the Provincial Council Act.

“We will be left only with the house without any powers over the land,” he said. Two weeks ago, the Eastern Provincial Council led by Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan adopted a resolution that the state should devolve land and police powers to the provinces.

Despite the objections from the Eastern Province, the amendments could be carried through if the other councils agree. All provincial councils functioning in eight of the nine provinces are controlled by the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance. Elections to the Northern Provincial Council are yet to be held. The Eastern Provincial Council, though dominated by the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal, is technically in the hands of the UPFA because the TMVP contested the elections as its ally.

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