Seef area 'descending into chaos'
Manama, September 8, 2008
A councillor is calling for a halt to development work in Seef - one of Bahrain's prime real estate locations.
Hameed Al Basri, who represents local residents in the area, claims bad planning means the booming shopping and business district could descend into chaos, said a report published in our sister publication, the Gulf Daily News.
He says it is already plagued by traffic congestion and a severe shortage of car parking, made worse by narrow roads.
Al Basri will now seek the backing of his counterparts on the Manama Municipal Council in his bid to halt all development in the Seef District.
He is proposing that projects should only resume once investors agree to contribute to the area's development, either by building public car parks or roads.
'Everything is being permitted there as special projects, but this has turned the Seef District into a chaotic place, which is extremely disorganised,' said Al Basri, who is also the Manama Municipal Council services and public utilities committee chairman.
'There were no plans to have chains of multi-storey buildings in the area, as the old classification system said the maximum height should be 10 storeys.
'But things suddenly changed when businessmen started getting exceptions, which allowed them to build higher than that.
'This forced a change in the classification system, and a place that was originally designated for homes and regular-sized buildings, has now turned into an unplanned and disorganised district.'
Al Basri said he was infuriated by investors who pledged to provide floors specifically for car parking in their buildings, but later converted them into offices.
'They then force employees to park on the pavement, which means whenever visitors come they have nowhere to park,' he said.
'Empty land is privately owned and the pavement is being used by others (to park).
'Investors are too greedy to even rent car parks in a multi-storey building in the area because they believe that having car parks for their employees is unnecessary.
'This gives employees no other option but to park on the narrow road, blocking traffic.'
Al Basri revealed that the council had previously tried to buy land to build public car parks in the area, but could not meet the demanded price because it was too expensive.
'We wanted to build a multi-storey car park for the public, but the price of the land was more than BD10 million ($26.5 million),' he said.
'Creating one car parking space costs double the amount of a new car. The cost of one space can reach BD15,000.
'The public car park project was delayed in old Manama because no-one wanted to come forward to build car parks since the government was not prepared to pay.
'Only one company bid for the contract, forcing the government to accept its price even though it was in the same price range as the Seef District.'
He said he could see no alternative than to halt the development of Seef until investors started to accept the council's conditions.
'We have to force investors to respect the community, rather than their pockets,' he said.
'I am not against development or investment. The only thing I am against is chaos.
'I will push for the halt until things change and until a real solution is found.'
Al Basri has already managed to block permission for one 72-storey tower after revealing that its traffic impact study was outdated.
He is also pushing to have the BD1-billion Up Town Project, which is planned on land opposite Bahrain Mall, thrown out.
The project features three huge tower blocks, including what will be two of the tallest towers in Bahrain, standing at 75 storeys and measuring 260 metres.
It also features 20 residential