Rural Czechs unhappy with invasion of development projects as Prague expands

Located about 30 km south of Prague, the town of Dobříš is one of the many picturesque towns that dot the Czech Republic. It has a large castle 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 city’s proximity to the rapidly developing Czech capital and the wider region of Central Bohemia means that it has recently become a major construction area for new housing projects.

Marie Martincová, a native of Dobříš, is unhappy with the constant construction work taking place near the city’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’re building monstrosities there! It doesn’t fit here at all. And it is either for banks or for people who have no connection with Dobříš, they are always absent.

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

She is one of many local residents who say they will vote to cancel the project if a referendum, proposed by a section of city councillors, passes.

That this is a hot topic was evident on Thursday, when the divided 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 must be voted on in October.

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

One of the authors of the referendum proposal, councilor Jaromír Bláha, says promises not to build on protected areas are not enough.

“Once the areas that have been approved for construction are built on, developers will propose that more land be used for construction sites. In the neighborhoods around Prague, it’s almost always the same story – councils eventually give in to pressure from developers.

The director general of the Union of Cities and Municipalities of the country, Radka Vladyková, agrees with him.

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

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

Berta D. Wells