PEOPLE with plots of land on a historic island will soon be allowed to start building their dream homes.
More than half of Nabih Saleh island, which is connected to Sitra and Manama by bridges, has never been officially zoned, according to area councillor Hussain Qarqoor.
The government has already taken steps to help native residents by announcing plans for 188 government homes, meaning that original families can continue living on the land of their ancestors despite the growing population.
They have also benefited from two schools, a police station and a fishermen's jetty.
But 60 per cent of the island had never been classified - meaning people who bought land were unable to develop it.
However, the Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry has agreed to zone 10 per cent of the island this year and the remaining 50pc within five years, he said.
"We are trying to negotiate with the ministry to push through with zoning of Nabih Saleh to allow landowners to start building their homes," said the Manama Municipal Council technical committee chairman.
"Nabih Saleh is the only town in the Capital Governorate that is still unclassified, despite proposals to urbanise it being drawn up over the past 20 years.
"Now, a deal has been reached to zone 10pc by the end of the year to allow some landowners to begin building and the remaining will be zoned within the upcoming five years, depending on how fast the ministry's engineers can draw up blueprints. Five years is reasonable and hopefully it doesn't extend to become 50. Residents have waited long enough."
Mr Qarqoor said the island, famous for the Monk Nabih Saleh shrine that some say makes wishes come true, previously had only a few residents, but had grown as families expanded.
He said the lack of zoning also meant that much-needed infrastructure development such as roads and sewage networks had also been held up.
However, the councillors said while most people were still waiting for the green light to build new homes, some had been given special permission and were already leasing them out to expatriates.
Mr Qarqoor is concerned that some people waiting to build homes will be asked to sell off their land to make way for infrastructure development as the proposal states that some landowners will only be given the go-ahead on the condition that they relinquish their land.
"Unfortunately some landowners will have to sell off their plots to the government, but it is a sacrifice for the greater good to complete zoning," he said.
"No-one knows what plots will be taken and I sympathise with owners who will lose out considering their long wait, but for the deal on completing zoning to go ahead, I had to accept."