By Maria Dragunova
Throughout Belarus, there are 205 towns and similar sized settlements, yet only 70 (one third) have a true plan for future development, having a town-planning policy. The Architecture and Construction Ministry notes that a range of issues surround property construction; solutions will be required over the coming five years. What is likely to have changed in our towns and cities by 2015?
According to statistical data, Belarus is one of the most urbanised countries in the CIS, with around 75 percent of the population residing in cities. Increasing numbers of Belarusians aim to settle in the capital, as well as in regional and large centres. The creation of almost 2,000 agro-towns in the last five years has not considerably changed the situation, although the quality of life in rural areas has risen significantly.
Minsk, like other cities, requires a greater volume of safe, comfortable accommodation. The Presidential Decree ‘On Approving the Major Guidelines of the City-Planning Policy of the Republic of Belarus for 2011-2015’, signed in late August, should change the situation.
According to the Architecture and Construction Ministry’s Main Department for Project Works, City-Planning and Architecture, the adopted document continues the old programme while taking into account new approaches towards the transformation of towns and settlements. In particular, the image of towns is being given importance, with traditions to be used to shape the identity of each one. A detailed plan of the historical part of each settlement, where these exist, is vital.
Pedestrian zones are to be highlighted while small and medium-sized towns are to be given low-rise housing: town houses and two- and three-storey buildings. In contrast, Minsk is to receive 16-20-storey buildings, creating a recognisable skyline for the Belarusian capital. Planners have no intention of expanding the footprint of the city however.