Looking at the legal aspects of the real estate practice in Serbia, one would be hard-pressed to find a more significant occurrence than the recent introduction of the new General Urban Plan (GUP) for Belgrade.
Thirteen years had passed since the last plan of that kind was adopted, giving room for a wealth of updates this time around. Belgrade’s mayor has declared the new plan to be a strategic document of great importance and a basis for the city’s overall modernization, new investments, and new job positions, all of which are included in the government’s short and long-term goals.
The Republic of Serbia also adopted a general pyramidal structure of plans. The plans can, as a consequence, be divided into “zoning plans” (providing the general concept for the development of an area) and “urban plans” (general or detailed plans providing more construction/urban parameters). The GUP, in terms of its subject matter, is a strategic plan providing guidance for the development of the City of Belgrade. This means that its implementation would (for most areas) require preparation of detailed urban plans to provide specific construction/urban parameters to be applied when constructing a facility.
In order to provide a more in-depth look at the GUP itself, as well as its related implications, we should start with what exactly the plan entails. To start with, the GUP defines specific boundaries (including the scope of the construction area), the borders of the general regulation plans for the entire construction area, the general purpose areas that are predominantly planned in the construction area at the level of urban zones, and the general directions and corridors for traffic, energy, water management, utilities, and other key infrastructural elements. Furthermore, the entire scope of the GUP can best be perceived when taking into consideration that the total territory of the City of Belgrade is around 322,000 hectares, with the territory covered by the GUP totaling 77,851 hectares – 57,000 of which are taken up by designated construction areas. City officials claim that the main tangible focus points of the GUP are the relocation of commercial and industrial facilities from the central city zone into suburban areas, the preservation of agricultural land in the peripheral zone, and the retrofitting of transport and utilities infrastructures. In addition, certain areas have been labeled as being of “special interest” in the GUP and are defined as future large city projects. Examples of these projects include the Sava amphitheater and shipyard, the Belgrade Waterfront project, Ada Huja island, commercial zones along the Batajnica-Dobanovci road, and the military complex in Surcin.
The adoption of the GUP also provides the conditions needed for the realization of a large number of residential, commercial, and industrial complexes. The newly formulated urbanization process in new urban zones is meant to forestall the possibility of illegal construction, while the old factories remaining in the central city area are intended to be transformed into commercial and other kinds of similar facilities. The GUP also presents the introduction of the “mixed-use” concept, a regulatory innovation that allows for the combination of housing with commercial contents, and thus represents a more flexible utilization of urban land properties. Calling upon the concrete nature of these plans, Belgrade city officials have professed their expectation that the GUP will be a big boost to industry in general, as well as a fundamental aspect of anticipated future investments.
As is the case with any other regulatory change or update, there are a variety of viewpoints one can take – especially depending on one’s area of expertise. However, the biggest legislative benefit of the GUP is the much clearer definition of infrastructural elements, meant to make the process of issuing building permits run significantly faster. Still, a word of caution should perhaps be given to the introduction of the aforementioned “mixed-use” concept, wherein the combination of commercial and housing purposes in a single property has, in some cases, turned out to hinder the overall rentability of such objects.