October 2017. Within the cycle of theme workshops organised by the GIZ/AMBERO project “Strengthening of local Land Management in Serbia”, the Urban laboratory on the implementation of the early public participation in the planning practice in Serbia took place on the 24th of October 2017 at the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities. With the project support, the early public participation was introduced as a novelty in the course of the last changes of the Law on Planning and Construction from 2014. The aim of the workshop was to present the results of the analyses on the implementation of the early public participation, as well as to exchange the experiences among the national experts concerning the implementation of novelties in the planning process in Serbia.
The conference was opened by Mr. Harald Müller, Head of Project, and the attendees were greeted by Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Construction, Transportation and Infrastructure Mr. Djordje Milic MSc, who highlighted the main aim of the instrument of early public participation whose implementation also represents a part of the efforts of the Ministry regarding the process of EU integration. The report on the implementation of the early public participation based on the experiences of experts in the planning practice was presented by Ms. Natasa Colic PhD. Afterwards, Ms. Gordana Djilas and Ms. Silvija Kacenberger from Novi Sad, as well as Ms. Gordana Pavlovic from the public enterprise Institute for Urbanism Novi Sad, elaborated their perception on possibilities of the implementation of the early public participation.
Their perception of the experiences in the implementation of the early public participation in towns and municipalities in Serbia was shared by Ms. Jelena Strizovic and Ms. Aleksandra Lukic from the Department of Urbanism in Arandjelovac, as well as Ms. Milena Zindovic from the Public Urban Enterprise Sabac. The Urban Laboratory was moderated by Ms. Ratka Colic PhD.
After the presentations, a discussion was introduced in which the representatives of the governments, public and private urban enterprises from Belgrade, Novi Sad, Nis, Smederevo, Pancevo, Sabac, Arandjelovac, as well as students of the Master programme Integral Urbanism from the Faculty of Architecture in Belgrade. During the discussion, the questions and dilemmas with which experts are dealing with in practice were also introduced: How do the governments and urbanists inform the citizens about the early public participation? Is the material presented at the early public participation clear enough for the citizens? Is it important to include the bearers of public interests in the process before the execution of the early public interest in order to make the material more realistic? Who are all the participants in the planning process? Who is protecting the public interest from the participants? Is the feedback being given to the participants in the early public participation and in which way? The possibilities for the strengthening of the implementation of the early public participation in practice were also indicated, above all regarding the topic of providing information, the preparation of the material which is being made available and clear for the citizens, as well as the possibilities of balancing the public and other interests in the course of the early public participation, bearing in mind the examples of good practice which were presented by the representatives of the local governments and public urban enterprises from Novi Sad, Sabac and Arandjelovac.
The participants of the conference suggested the following strengthenings in the form of recommendations:
- Keep track of the implementation of the participation in the future
- Introduce additional methods of informing by the local community and the internet platform
- Introduce a public presentation (preferably in the initial phases of the early public participation),
- Introduce the cooperation with the bearers of public interests before the initiation of the early public participation in order to make material as realistic as possible
- Introduce a public discussion in the course of the early public participation
- Introduce the possibility of e-consultation
- Enable that the objections and comments made at the early public participation are being considered by the Planning Commission
- Enable that the report on the early public participation is available at the web page of the local self-government unit, that it contains detailed descriptions of the activities, the list of the participants in the process, as well as reasoned responses to the single comments and objections.
As additional proposals for the strengthening of the implementation of participation in the planning practice in Serbia, the participants indicated the importance of the dissemination of good practice in the course of platforms like the Urban laboratory, as well as organizing training programmes in the local self-governments.