An order by the Administrative Court to revoke the construction permit and environmental assessment study reports of another city condo highlights the serious need to tighten the work of state agencies in regulating these luxury housing projects.
In its Sept 27 ruling, the court ruled the “125 Sathorn” luxury condominium, which is under construction, is larger than permitted by law, as alleged by residents of a nearby housing project called The Met. A lawsuit was filed against state agencies that approved the EIA report and a construction permit for the project.
According to the Met juristic person, the Sathorn project has had adverse impacts on its residents during its construction, and when completed, it will compromise their quality of life. The lawsuit was filed by The Met juristic person and condominium unit owners.
The Sathorn is not the first housing project to encounter legal trouble. In 2021, the court ruled the permit for the 6.5-billion-baht Ashton Asoke condominium be withdrawn on the grounds that it violated the Building Control Act as it did not have an exit onto Asoke Road.
Seven years before that, the court ordered the demolition of the upper levels of the Aetas Hotel and serviced apartment project in Soi Ruamrudee. This was found to have breached the same law, which limits buildings constructed on roads narrower than 10 metres to eight storeys. No substantive action has been taken against the two controversial projects, though.
By issuing such drastic rulings, the court has taken environmental and safety concerns into consideration, and, at the same time, effectively told state agencies, particularly the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) and the Office of National Environmental Planning and Policy, that they must act tough, or take accountability for not doing so.
Early this week, the Thailand Consumer Council (TCC) raised concerns that soon-to-be-built condominium projects on three small roads in two city districts — Phaya Thai and Chatuchak — might be in breach of the law.
The TCC said building a large condominium on a small road is a disaster waiting to happen with regard to fire safety in particular. In addition, local communities are worried about traffic congestion in the respective areas as most large projects like these do not provide sufficient parking space for their residents, who tend to use public spaces instead.
On top of that is the aggravation of the PM2.5 dust problem, as tall structures block wind flow during the winter.
The TCC has called for the BMA to reconsider those projects and ensure they are scaled down in accordance with the law. It also urged a new mechanism to improve law enforcement and include public participation in the EIA approval process to reduce negative impacts on the environment and communities.
In response to these proposals, Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt has formed a special committee to study such problems. While it sounds encouraging, City Hall can do better. The BMA has had plenty of lessons and experience from lawsuits regarding condominium projects approved by city officials — Aetas, Ashton Asoke, The Sathorn, not to mention others.
It is about time the BMA acted. Perhaps the first step Mr Chadchart can take is to enforce the law on district officials who approved these problematic projects.
Real action, not just setting up another committee, will show City Hall means business.