Developers worried over document procedure delays in Tallinn

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Kalaranna quarter. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Secondary market real estate prices are partly increasing because developers cannot keep up with demand when constructing new residential buildings. In Tallinn, developers say, one of the main obstacles is the time it takes to draw up detail plans.

Estonian Association of Construction Entrepreneurs board member Raivo Rand said Tallinn city government's work pace is not a new issue for the association. He admitted that city government has made improvements, but deadlines specified in the Building Act not being followed is still a common occurrence.

"Different authorities in Tallinn understand this differently and there is no common authority who would collect all the notes and problems and would then forward these to the developer. You have to request it yourself. Whether it be a city district government, municipal department or the construction department, you have to ask for it separately. There are cases where authorities have completely different understandings," Rand noted.

Developers want city government to submit all comments at once. "We often find a sentence among the list of comments that says there could be additional notes. If you amend the mistakes, you get another batch and this takes a lot of time," the association representative said.

Tallinn deputy mayor Andrei Novikov (Center) said it is inevitably more complicated to develop something in Estonia's largest city than in a smaller city or municipality. He said the larger number of neighbors and the already developed environment must be taken into consideration.

"Could it be done faster - yes. We have done all we can to make it a faster process. The city planning internal procedures will be updated in the near future, which will fixate how long an authority should look at proposals and how long the coordination rounds should take. We will manage the deadlines then. What can I say, we have had issues where an authority, that should be looking at one specific section, starts talking about a completely different topic," Novikov said.

Association of Architects president Andro Mänd said Tallinn's size is not a great enough excuse. The city is the only one in Estonia without a city architect. Mänd said this means the people responsible lack the necessary education and training.

He added that city government is partly doubling the work done by district governments. "Tallinn only draws up general plans, detail plans are not done by the city," Mänd said.

"The system is one where if a developer has a plot where they want to develop something, they purchase a plan from the private sector and the city must coordinate it. Actually, if we went by the Helsinki model, where the city develops its own plans, this process would be much faster. Right now, the plans are bounced around between officials, companies, clients and developers. Some Tallinn city officials have expressed that they could take the planning down to about half a year. Currently, it is practically impossible to get a plan done in less than a year," Mänd explained.

He said city government does not bear all of the blame, however. Developers do not always follow public interest and can even abuse complicated situations. The already shaky trust between city government and developers makes the situation more complicated.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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