New land row over Bahrain mall plan
Manama, December 19, 2011
Municipal council is going up against parliament in a multi-million-dinar land row - with one councillor accusing MPs of wasting people's time.
The BD8 million ($21.2 million) plot of land in Isa Town is owned by a private investor who intends to build a new shopping mall.
His plan has already won the backing of the Central Municipal Council, which is responsible for sanctioning such projects.
However, parliament has intervened and demanded the government to step in and buy the strip of land so it can be turned into a park.
The Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry has since ordered a halt to the mall project, which would be located on the site of the old Batelco headquarters - which has been vacant for the past two decades.
Area councillor Ghazi Al Hamer is now accusing parliament of 'interfering' in council business.
He added neighbours had been complaining for years that the land was a haven for insects, rats and snakes, but nothing had been done until the investor came in to build a mall.
'Let's be reasonable, the government can't acquire a BD8 million plot of land,' said Mr Al Hamer.
'Stopping the investor for the sake of a parliamentary request is an unnecessary waste of time.
'The government could have purchased that land two decades ago, when it was first vacated and affordable, not now when it has been bought by an investor, who has recently fenced it.
'I don't know why parliament is interfering in our business, but the investor is receiving our utmost support for his mall project.
'We want his project to go ahead for two reasons - so that the land gets properly utilised and is beneficial to residents and because it is a good source of income for the Central Municipality, through municipal fees.'
He added he was confident the mall would be built, regardless of opposition from parliament.
'We are currently holding talks with the ministry to end the saga so that the investor can carry on his work, as explained to the council,' said Al Hamer.
'It is clear that the land can't be bought from him for BD8 million.'
However, area MP and former municipal councillor Isa Al Qadi is leading objections to the new mall.
He claims voters want to see a public park there instead.
'Even if the land has changed hands from Batelco to an investor, that doesn't mean the government can't purchase it,' said Mr Al Qadi.
'The government has put itself in a situation where the land has reached BD8m, but previously arrangements have been reached with investors to buy land earmarked for private projects turned into public property.
'There is the nearby Isa Town Mall a kilometre away from this land that shoppers can go to. This land is the only one available for a public park that residents can benefit from,' he added.-TradeArabia News Service