Streamlining the Administration (2): the technical backlog

Views: 37

In an attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff, some of the reasons thought to lie behind the lack of administrative dynamism found in official offices will be analysed and alternatives suggested.

The growing density of bureaucracy affects many sectors other than those of town and country planning. Nevertheless, in those fields, the movement of money is very fast and permanent pressures are built in. Now a smoke screen is being structured in our country. Behind the subterfuge of speeding up procedures, in reality the intention is to modify rules so eliminating territorial protection and allowing for personal favours.

To avoid us from losing our way, there are some published writings that look at the problem from different perspectives, in order to provide material for reflection by interested people.

To this end, we have uncovered an article published about eight years ago that throws light on a tendency that has been implemented significantly. It is never fair to generalize (and there are many people whose work is rigorous), but the issue discussed below is much more important than usually first thought.

Although the examples cited are from the past, they reflect what is continuing to happen now.

The technical delay (written in May 2016)

That we have some public administrations that work very slowly is not surprising news. Nevertheless, sometimes it is worth delving a little deeper to see some of the dynamics that happen in the processing of interesting projects, and find reasons for the delays. The weight of responsibility does not always fall on the public.

A couple of paradigm cases have been seen. In one of them, a Special Plan was denied for legalizing and organizing a rural nucleus in Menorca. Initially a worthy initiative because it had to end supply problems, faecal and other sorts of contamination. The developers criticised the Consell Insular (the Island Governing Council) for having made an unfavourable report.

However, if the file is consulted, a large number of errors will be noted on the shortcomings and contradictions in the presentation of the project, so that nothing is clear nor complies with the objectives that motivated the initiative. Approval was not possible. One has to ask what the reason was for presenting such deficient work.

Something similar happened with the wind farm of s’Ear Vella, to the north of Ciutadella. The installation of six generators was processed though it was in an area declared an Area of Landscape Interest. The declaration is not new but has prevailed since 2003. Furthermore, since 2009, the area has been recognised for its particular use by highly protected birds and the corresponding Special Plan states explicitly that installations of wind parks in these areas cannot be authorised. It seems that time and money could have been saved with a minimum of prior information.

It is not difficult to understand the problems of survival for a small company or a self-employed person in the current economic circumstances. It also happens to environmental consultancies. It must be difficult to reject any job applications where developers have been warned that they do not have any chance of going ahead with their initiative. This might be seen as being magnanimous with the facts.

The other, more complicated problem, is that whoever is the supposed expert doing the specialist work does not delve deeply enough into the regulations that are applied to the project in question and so it comes, after months or years, to a dead end. As we said at the beginning, it is the usual practice to attribute the blame on the public administration though everyone involved is partly responsible.

In addition, perhaps, they have been guided by the need to stay afloat in such unstable times as are current (let us continue with the benevolent interpretation). Recently there has been an increase in some urban projects and, in order to comply in accordance with the current rules and with certain requirements, plans should be presented to the institutions in a schematic and efficient way. Thus, the public institution specialists in their turn can point out any deficiencies and conditions.

This practice adds to the pressure placed on the public services, who have to do the work that should have been completed by the developer and their contracted team. Once the developers subsequently receive the institutional report with its corrections, the project has to be redone and the processing begins again. It is obvious that there is an enormous lapse in time from the beginning to the final resolution. This is then translated into criticism of administrative lack of efficiency.

Meanwhile, the appropriate time arrives to recover the ethical obligations that have been overlooked recently. Perhaps, it is possible to deal with speeding up the urban planning procedures simply by sharing the interpretation of the current dense and complicated regulations. Search for a mutual interpretation by the different experts who ought to give their opinions.

The revision of the PTI (Plan Territorial Insular) which had to be made in 2013 adding a high level of land regulation by laws that needed to be economic and sectorial (the devil is always hidden in additional and transitional provisions). One part has been suspended and the other is in danger. No wonder there are different versions at the time of writing an official report.

Since it is common that a project has to get the opinion of various institutions, perhaps everyone would be a winner if the Consell Insular were to promote meetings to facilitate and agree on an interpretation between those experts who take on the responsibility of signing off the verdicts.

The legal certainty of what can or cannot be done on the land – and the corresponding liveliness of the procedures – can be improved significantly by establishing clear regulations, understood equally by the different agents involved, when each party assumes its corresponding responsibility.