Construction sites open up in Berlin all the time. Whenever that happens in a neighbourhood, residents take an interest in what exactly is being built. This is what prompted Magdalena Noffke and her fellow activists to inquire into official documents concerning construction plans. But that was not at all simple. Though the information is publicly available, it is buried in official journals that are scanned and uploaded, which means they cannot be searched. Availability unfortunately doesn’t imply accessibility.
Citizens can and do have a say in construction projects in their neighbourhoods, but only if they hear about it in time. “There is actually a lot of citizen participation which people aren’t aware of,” says Magdalena. Most residents only hear of plans after the fences are put up. Then it’s too late to get involved.
Presenting all construction projects on a single website. By entering your email address, you can receive messages on construction plans in certain districts. This way, citizens can influence what their neighborhoods will look like at an early stage.
It all sounds so complicated that it scares off citizens.
“Bebauungsplanverfahren” (zoning procedure). Construction plans are presented in a terrible administrative jargon. This word simply means to designate a specific use for an area, for example a residential or commercial use. If changes are made to the zoning, citizens have a right to participate in the decision-making process. “It’s not that complicated, actually,” says Magdalena, “but it all sounds so complicated that it scares off citizens.”
The Next Step
The construction projects can now be found easily. Next, Magdalena wants to make participation easy as well. To do so, she wants to create a template that allows citizens to effectively communicate their input on scheduled construction projects. The platform would automatically forward these comments to the responsible offices.