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Greenbelt Restrictions to Be Lifted for Development

Posted October. 01, 2008 03:00,   


The Land, Transport and Marine Affairs Ministry submitted yesterday a “Greenbelt Adjustment and Management Plan” to promote regional projects on establishing industrial complexes and expanding the housing supply.

Critics, however, warn that sprawling urban areas will damage the environment.

The Seoul metropolitan area will largely benefit from the plan, with 143.6 square kilometers of land being lifted from development bans since subdivisions for low-income earners are expected to be concentrate in Seoul.

Busan will see 40.7 square kilometers of land exempt from greenbelt designation; Daejeon 28.2 square kilometers; Ulsan 25.6 square kilometers; Gwangju 24.3 square kilometers; Daegu 23.5 square kilometers; and Masan, Changwon and Jinhae 22.6 square kilometers.

Restriction-lifted areas in Busan will include six square kilometers designated for a Dubai-style port business valley.

The ministry will change urban development plans for seven metropolitan areas by March. Detailed information on areas to be freed from restrictions will be released when the ministry announces the plans the following month.

The metropolitan city plans will include the combined area of land to be lifted from development bans by 2020. Since this figure is not changeable, provincial governments must request the central urban planning committee to lift greenbelt bans within the amount if needed.

The lands listed as restriction removal areas under existing city plans will be first freed from the bans and additional lands later. Among designated areas, priority will go to lands where development plans have already been made.

When the planned removal of restrictions is finished by 2020, greenbelt areas will shrink 7.8 percent to 3,630.8 square kilometers.

To be lifted from greenbelt designation, a land should be declared inappropriate for preservation with three to five grades in the environmental effect assessment; smaller than 200,000 square meters; lower than 70 meters above sea level; and not need additional infrastructure. This means land should be in good shape for quick developmental effects.

Even superior farmland can be converted for developmental purposes with approval from the Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry.

Housing investors said the Gyeonggi Province cities of Gwacheon, Hanam, Seongnam and Goyang will be possible candidates for greenbelt designation removal.

Excluded from the greenbelt exemption will be areas where property prices are disproportionately rising or the greenbelt removal is expected to lead to urban sprawl and traffic congestion. Also ineligible is land located 70 meters or higher above sea level.

In ban-lifted areas, industrial complexes exclusively for small and medium-size enterprises and logistics and research, and subdivisions for low-income earners will be established.

The deregulation is expected to give momentum for a host of construction projects, such as a raw material complex and research belt construction in Ulsan; a research center for green technology in Daegu; and an industrial-educational cooperation complex for mechanical research in South Gyeongsang Province.

To prevent land speculation, the government will not conduct the prior practice of releasing information on the development areas to the public in the planning stage. Rather, the areas to be freed from restrictions will be made public when the Land Ministry notifies the public. The land transaction permit system will also be strengthened.

Housing market watchers, however, question if a month’s delay of the announcement could curb speculation. Some cite lack of preparation, warning a hasty process will bring about adverse effects.

Kim Seon-deok, the head of a think tank on the construction industry, said, “The government should lift bans in one or two areas and operate pilot cities to prepare against problems.”

legman@donga.com aryssong@donga.com