|Land devoted to allotment gardens in Warsaw could be worth zł.10.7 billion|
In a much-awaited verdict, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal struck down legislation granting the Polish Association of Allotment Holders (PZD) a monopoly on the management of Poland’s allotment gardens (działki) on July 11.
Out of the 50 provisions of the 2005 Act on Family Allotment Gardens, 24 were deemed unconstitutional, chiefly because they gave a monopoly status to the PZD over access and management of the sites.
Comparing the situation with allotment gardens in neighboring Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Slovakia, the judges found that other legal systems guaranteed a balanced protection of both the interests of land owners and allotment holders, which was not the case in Poland.
Worth a fortune
PZD is currently the sole entity allowed to distribute and manage Poland’s 966,000 allotment gardens, and does so free of any fees or taxes. An estimated 1 million families use the allotments. In total this land, overwhelmingly situated in central urban locations, is worth a minimum of zł.20 billion, based on figures from Poland’s Central Statistical Office, according to real estate advisory firm Home Brokers.
But these plots are likely worth much more. Based on other data, this time from Colliers International, Home Brokers estimates that in Warsaw land currently under the control of PZD is worth zł.10.7 billion. In Wrocław, land dedicated to allotment gardens could be worth zł.9.6 billion, zł.4.4 billion in Poznań, and zł.3.1 billion in ŁodĽ.
In its judgment, the tribunal underlined that it did not find allotments, as such, unconstitutional. On the contrary, the judgment described them as “a vital element of the landscape of Polish towns and cities.”
Polish parliamentarians will have 18 months to replace the law governing allotments. In the meantime, the legal position of allotments holders should not change, according to Jakub Ruiz, associate at law firm Bird & Bird.
If the new act is not in place by then however, the land will automatically return to the state or local authorities. “Cites and communities would then be free to do whatever any owner of real estate property is allowed to do: rent it, lease it or sell it. They could also leave the allotments in their place,” said Mr Ruiz.
Once the act is in place, it is also possible that cities and communities will regain their powers over the properties occupied by the allotments, including the right to collect taxes, the right to move or even cancel a given allotment and rent or sell the property, he added.
With all the main political parties having announced that they have their own plans for a new bill, it is yet unclear what the act will contain. Some, like the former leader of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), Grzegorz Napieralski, say they are concerned that under the influence of developer, the allotment gardens could be scrapped.
Others see an opportunity for cities to develop residential and public space, and to plug holes in municipal budgets. “It is difficult to accept the fact that in the very center of Warsaw … is an area that is at the exclusive disposal of a few dozens or hundreds of people, when this area could be used for example as a publicly accessible urban park,” Jacek Bielecki, head of the Polish Association of Developers (PZFD), told news agency Newseria.
From Warsaw Business Journal by Alice Trudelle
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