Rural Czechs unhappy with invasion of developer projects as Prague expands


The inhabitants of Dobříš, close to Prague, are calling for a referendum to block developers from building largescale housing on the outskirts of the district. The situation is similar in many of the towns and villages in close proximity to Prague which find themselves massively expanding as Praguers move out of the city due to high prices and the search for better infrastructure.

Located about 30km south of Prague, the town of Dobříš is one of the many picturesque towns dotted around the Czech Republic. It features a large chateau and local legend says that its founder was one of the companions of the mythical Father Čech who led the nation to settle in the surrounding lands.

However, the town’s proximity to the rapidly developing Czech capital and wider Central Bohemian region means that it has recently become a large construction area for new housing projects.

Dobříš native Marie Martincová is unhappy about the constant building works, which are taking place close to the town’s nature reserve.

"Look at that slope above the pond. First it was a meadow, then they turned it into a field and now they are building such monstrosities there! It doesn't fit here at all. And it’s either for banks or for people who have no connection to Dobříš, they are away all the time.

“But of course all they care about is money. They don’t care about what it will look like.”

She is one of several local inhabitants who say that they will vote in favour of canceling the project if a referendum, proposed by a section of the town’s councilors, gets passed.

That this is a hot topic was evident on Thursday, when the split council voted to delay the decision. However, time is running out, as referendums can only be called 90 days before an election and a new council is set to be voted in in October.

The town’s current mayor, Pavel Svoboda, says that he cannot influence what is built on land already approved for construction, but he insists that nothing will be built on parcels designated as residential greenery. He is also unwilling to stand in the way of the CZK 220 million that the municipality could receive from developers looking to build in the area.

One of the authors of the referendum proposal, Councillor Jaromír Bláha, says that promises not to build on protected zones are not enough.

“Once the areas that have been approved for construction are built over, developers will propose that more land should be used for building sites. In districts around Prague it is almost always the same story - the councils end up caving in to pressure from developers.”

The managing director of the country’s Union of Towns and Municipalities, Radka Vladyková, agrees with him.

“We have to deal with this problem around large cities very often. The overpopulation there means that there is insufficient capacity for children in schools and kindergartens, as well as insufficient transport and congested roads. That leads to pressure on towns like Dobříš or Jesenice, where I sit in the council, because they offer an attractive locality.”

Usually, local district councils agree on a common approach about how to proceed with developer projects. However, a referendum has greater legal power, and is also binding, something that Jaromír Bláha hopes would help avoid possible changes in policy when new councilors get elected.