Absolute majority of Ukrainian cities unlawfully classify their general plans

At a press conference on 29 January, the Luhansk based East Ukrainian Centre for Civic Initiatives [the Centre] reported on the results of their investigation into the accessibility (or lack of such) to the public of the general plans for 70 cities in Ukraine – regional centres and tourist cities.

The absolute majority of urban dwellers – almost 32 million people – are being unlawfully deprived of information about the general plans for their cities. The Centre chose for its monitoring 46 of the biggest cities in Ukraine with a population of over 100 thousand, and 22 towns and town-like settlements conveniently placed, with a lot of recreational resources and where land was therefore of high value.

68 local councils were sent requests for information about public access to the cities’ general plans. 38 replied stating that their general plans were stamped “For official use only” or “Secret” (including Kyiv and Kharkiv). 13 city and settlement councils, in breach of the law, simply ignored the information request.

15 local councils reported that their general plans were posted on the official websites of their bodies of local self-government. A check of this found that only 3 sites had reasonably full information (Odessa, Lutsk and Donetsk), while 7 gave only fragmentary information, while on those of Berdyansk, Mariupol, Mykolaev, Kirovohrad and Sevastopol it proved impossible to find them.

The documents which local councils most often cited in justifying their classifying the general plans were the Order of the Head of the Security Service [SBU] from 01.03.2001 No. 52 “List of items of information constituting a state secret” [List] and the Cabinet of Ministers Resolution from 27.11.1998 No. 1893 “Instruction on the procedure for recording, holding and using documents, files, publications and other forms of information containing confidential information in the possession of the State”.

However back in November 2009, the SBU excluded from its List topographical maps and plans on the scale 1:50000, with the relevant SBU Order coming into force on 16 December. Since that time the drawn part of general plans may not be classified.

The Centre is concerned that the process of declassifying these plans could drag on for years and have called on civic activists and the media to demand that local authorities declassify such material immediately.

This situation is not only in breach of Ukrainian legislation and international practice, but also creates fertile ground for corrupt practices and violations of people’s civil rights. The Centre is calling for the immediate removal of all stamps restricting access which it believes can only exacerbate negative trends in the economic development of the cities. The Centre offers civic activists and organizations method and legal assistance in seeking the declassifying of general plans in their cities.

The East Ukrainian Centre for Civic Initiatives was registered in 2003 in Luhansk. Its objective is to promote aware and active participation of citizens in public life through educational and human rights programmes. One of the main areas of its work is in promoting the establishment of transparent and lawful procedure for planning and construction in Ukraine.

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