Phang-nga Province has introduced stringent zoning aimed at curbing what locals there see as out-of-control development in Phuket, a Bangkok-based lawyer told a seminar organised by the American Chamber of Commerce in Phuket on Friday.
Anurag Ramanat, a partner in the South Asia Law Co, explained, “Phang-nga people think they don't want Phang-nga to be ‘spoiled’ like Phuket.”
Already, for several years, developers have been moving into “Greater Phuket” – southern Phang-nga – in search of beachfront plots or cheaper land. “Whatever happens in Phuket will move to Phang-nga,” said Mr Anurag, and much of the new zoning regulations appear to be aimed at containing this.
For a start, about 70 per cent of Phang-nga is now branded for “rural or agriculture” use. This is broken into smaller areas, in each of which only 20 per cent may be occupied by structures. No home of less than 400 square metres may be built, and 40 per cent of any land parcel must be given over to green area, landscaped or otherwise.
Row houses, townhouses, condominiums and apartment buildings are effectively barred, as are shopping complexes – only shops of less than 400 square metres may be built.
Along the much coveted beaches, the first 30 metres from the shoreline is designated as “recreational or conservation” area. It may be landscaped, but that’s all, and building heights and built-up areas behind that strip are strictly limited.
“There are many restrictions [across the province] in terms of development,” Mr Anurag said.
“It’s limiting for hotels, though housing is easier, albeit with a lot of green area.”
Two other lawyers, Sorachong Boonsong and Kammalard Urapeepatanapong from Baker & McKenzie reviewed recent changes to zoning regulations as they apply to Phuket.
A complex system imposed seven months ago, they explained, stipulate buildings heights and green space for nine different types of zone, and stricter regulations for building on slopes.
Mr Sorachong noted that the biggest impact is on outlying islands, which are almost all designated Zone 1. Here, structures may now be no more than six metres high and must be set back at least 20 metres from the mean high tide mark. In addition, 75 per cent of any plot in Zone 1 must be given over to green area.
He also highlighted two areas of vagueness that will inevitably result in local “interpretation”: the definition of “Sino-Portuguese” structures in Zone 4 (Phuket Town).
The required green area around such buildings is smaller than for other buildings in the zone.
Slope regulations stipulate that mandatory free space must be planted with “local trees” but what kind of trees these may be is not defined in the regulations.
Mr Kammalard noted that developments that already have local authority contsruction permits are not subject to the new regulations, but warned that developers must ensure that their permitdoes not expire. An approved environmental impact assessment is not enough, nor is a “39bis permit”, even though this allows construction work to begin.
Finally, he noted that Phuket’s current town planning law will expire soon, and a new one may be introduced any day.