PHUKET CITY: The Phuket Public Works and Town and Country Planning Office (PWTCPO), which is responsible for drawing up a comprehensive set of island-wide zoning regulations by October 1, has completed a first round of public hearings in each of Phuket’s three districts to gauge public opinion on zoning issues. The zoning is intended to curb the unregulated development that many feel is threatening the island’s future as a tourist destination. The plan is in line with government’s 1992 designation of Phuket as an environmental protection area, and is part of a government scheme to implement zoning throughout the country by 2006. Town Planner Prasert Termmart told the Gazette that two preliminary seminars were conducted in March and September last year to present the “vision and scope” of the zoning plan. Between March 19 and 23 this year, a series of hearings was held in Muang, Kathu and Thalang districts to elicit public reaction. Local leaders, including tambon council members, village headmen and tambon chiefs were invited to attend, along with business people and members of the general public. All were encouraged to express their concerns and opinions about the plan and to make suggestions, he said. K. Prasert said that the plan is to divide the island into six types of zones: 1. Information and Communication Technology (ICT); 2. Tourism; 3. Commercial-Industrial; 4. Environmental Conservation; 5. Residential; 6. Marine. After the regulations come into effect, all new projects will have to be located in appropriate zones. Exceptions will be granted only by special permission of the local tambon or municipal authority, which will use the zoning regulations as guidelines in coming to a decision, K. Prasert said. Developments that are in place before the new zoning regulations go into effect will be exempted under a “grandfather” clause. “In general, Phuket’s western side will be zoned for tourism whereas eastern areas are more likely to be zoned as residential,” K. Prasert noted. Future infrastructural development will support the zoning plan. For example, six areas to be designated as ICT zones, among them Cherng Talay, Kathu and Phuket City. These will be earmarked for installation of high-speed Internet services and fiber-optic cable. “We have to prepare the appropriate infrastructure for each zone, but some areas [such as Patong] could have dual-zoning, for example as both ICT and tourism areas,” he explained. Tourism zones would be sub-classified according to the type of tourism associated with them. While both Patong and Mai Khao are considered tourism zones, Mai Khao would be designated as an eco-tourism area, whereas Patong would be classified as an entertainment and recreational area. [Zoning by the PWTCPO is not specifically tied to the controversial effort to zone nightlife areas and institute new closing times. That initiative falls under a different branch of the Interior Ministry.] K. Prasert said that the area along the Phuket City bypass road would be zoned as commercial-industrial to support the government’s “shopping paradise” and “One Tambon One Product” schemes. Under the regulations, new agricultural projects such as farms could be sited only in commercial-industrial zones, he added. Marine zones will cover not only coastal areas, but will extend one kilometer out to sea in order to protect Phuket’s marine tourism and fishing industries. Apart from Patong’s “temporary” [high season] floating pier, local opinion was against construction of any permanent port or marina projects on the island’s west coast, he added. Each of the three districts is required to submit a report to the Phuket PWTCPO by the end of May, after which time there will be another round of public hearings to work out final details. The deadline for completion of the entire process at the provincial level is October 1 this year. The zoning plan will then be submitted to the Town and Country Planning Department in Bangkok for final consideration and approval.
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