Over 60 hectares of green areas near the Łódź airport are to be a new industrial zone. Instead of trees, glades and animals, there are to be new roads and warehouses. How did you come to that? Officials say that’s according to a zoning study that said it was worthless agricultural land. Residents are protesting.
The roads are dirt, or – at best – consisting of a series of concrete slabs. Walking around this place, you can come across wild garbage dumps from time to time – in one place someone abandoned an old metal roofing tile, a few meters further there is a meter-high pile of bottles. The area at first glance differs from a “normal” forest. There are a lot of meadows and clearings here and there, interrupted by young trees. Nature organizes itself, without pre-planned alleys. From time to time you can come across someone’s fenced property.
It’s Tuesday, just after 3 pm. Although it’s windy and cold, there are many people in the area – someone is taking their dog for a walk, someone is doing a round on a bicycle on a narrow road, on which after a while a car drives with difficulty, hitting the roof every now and then branches of trees hit. Formally, the area to the north-west of the Łódź airport is not a forest, but an agricultural area taken over by nature.
It looks like it won’t be for long. The area of over 60 hectares, surrounded from the south and east by the airport, from the north by new blocks of flats, and from the south and west by single-family houses, is to be – according to the city’s latest idea – a new industrial zone.
– They’ll come in and cut everything out. There is so much talk about green cities and nature conservation. Paranoia – says Ryszard Pirek, a cyclist we meet on one of the dirt roads.
The longer we talk, the more nervous the interlocutor becomes. – Here they will destroy everything, and then Mrs. Zdanowska (Hanna – the mayor of Łódź) will joyfully declare that a thousand trees have been planted somewhere there. It’s a shame to talk, sheer stupidity – he waves his hand.
“First stupidity, second greed”
“First stupidity, second greed” – such a banner hung on the wall of the gymnasium of primary school No. 138 in Łódź. Several hundred people came to the meeting with Vice President Adam Pustelnik regarding the liquidation of green areas. Not all of them fit in, some silenced each other to hear the words coming from the loudspeaker in the corridor leading to the hall.
The vice president has no easy task – according to the plan, the meeting was to start with a short statement, during which the local government official explains why the city last year – with the approval of the city council – proceeded to draw up a local spatial development plan, which assumed the transformation of over 60 hectares of land for new infrastructure warehouse and logistics.
– The city, I emphasize it with all my might, has no intention of cutting down any forest, any greenery – he began, to which nervous voices of residents immediately rose in response.
– Look at the wizard, some magic. They will build warehouses near the forest – shouted one of the gathered. He was answered by the laughter of the gathered. The vice-president, after waiting a few moments for the room to calm down, approached a fabric screen on which a map of the area whose future residents feared was displayed using a projector. Adam Pustelnik said that in the area the city took under protection (by means of the public space clause) several surrounding green areas. But not the one people are worried about.
– Why didn’t we protect the area we met about? Because most of them are not urban areas. Only 44 percent belongs to the city, the rest is private – said Adam Pustelnik.
Secondly, he added, in the last three spatial development studies (one from the previous system, the other from 2010, and the third from 2018) they assumed that a logistics and industrial zone would be located here, which would expand the functions of the existing airport.
Decisions and outdated data
At this point, it is worth noting what a spatial development study is. It is a document that is to determine the way of development of individual parts of the city. The study is intended to cover the entire commune, which is why the creation of such a document for one of the largest cities in Poland is a long, arduous and expensive process, during which consultations with representatives of such fields as urban planning, architecture and nature conservation are carried out.
Although the study does not directly affect the local law, it sets the framework for what the spatial development plan may look like in this place. Because – as President Pustelnik explained – 60 hectares in the vicinity of the airport have been listed as industrial space in successive documents for several decades, and this area can only be used for industry.
– It is impossible to establish greenery on “industry” or greenery on “housing” – said the president.
– So, what right did someone write in the study that our “green lungs” – a place where people from all over the city come to rest – were listed as industrial areas in subsequent documents? – someone from the room asked such a question, after a while there was applause.
– I am responsible for the last two and a half years of planning administration. Previously, I was not responsible for this, it is difficult for me to relate to historical issues – replied the president.
It should be noted, however, that since 2010 the president has been Hanna Zdanowska, the superior of Adam Pustelnik.
Issues related to the preparation of the study were quickly addressed by Urszula Niziołek-Janiak, a councilor from Łódź, who voted for the new study in 2018. She claimed that – like other councilors – she was misled by the city, which provided outdated information regarding the land around the airport.
– We were convinced that it was worthless agricultural land. Meanwhile, it turned out that there was a natural succession, greenery appeared, animals appeared. The city did not fulfill its obligation to provide us with current data – the councilor argued.
She noted that she has received signals that also in other parts of the city, there is a situation where green areas, for incomprehensible reasons, are to be used for economic activity.
– You need to look at the study immediately, because due to outdated data in the city, we can lose a lot of valuable land – said the councilor.
A gym full of residents reacted with a clear message – the study must therefore be changed as soon as possible. The vice president, however, said that was impossible. Why?
Mayor Pustelnik argued that the study is a document that must cover the entire city. – It cannot be updated pointwise. We would love to allocate these areas for green areas, but the process of changing the study takes at least a year and a half – said Adam Pustelnik.
He emphasized that after the city started to draw up a local spatial development plan, the proceedings related to the determination of development conditions in the area in question were suspended.
– In Poland, there is a law that, within the zoning conditions, almost any investment can be erected, even if it is inconsistent with the zoning study. Why? Ask the Sejm, it was supposed to change many years ago – argued Pustelnik.
He noted that one of the largest factories built in recent years in Łódź was erected under the development conditions. Right next to residential buildings.
So that’s one option. We are withdrawing from spatial development plans and anything can happen. Anything can be built there without the city’s control. We won’t be able to influence it, said the Hermit.
He noted that five proceedings related to the determination of development conditions in the area in question are currently suspended. All of them are related to the construction of multi-family houses.
The second option is – as Pustelnik reported – accepting the previously proposed plan.
– I assume that your presence is a clear signal that you do not accept the idea of creating a logistics and industrial space there. That is why we are presenting the third option, a compromise one, said the vice-president.
Then he went to the screen where another project was marked – industrial areas are to be separated from buildings by green buffer zones.
– This, in my opinion, is the best solution. The buffer will be one hundred meters wide. Of course, this is not a solution that will satisfy everyone, it is a form of compromise – said the president.
– You talk about three options. But we don’t want any of them. We want more greenery! one of the crowd raised his voice. His next words were drowned out by a storm of applause.
The meeting in the primary school in Łódź lasted several hours. There was no consensus. Residents declare that – if necessary – they will fight “for every tree”.
Main photo source: tvn24.pl