Car workshops moved to Abu Dhabi's outskirts

All carpentry, scrap metal and welding shops will also be moved off the island and relocated in Musaffah.

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ABU DHABI // Nearly all car workshops must move to the outskirts of the capital by next year, while carpentry, glassworks, welding and scrap-metal shops must move to Musaffah, according to a new directive from the municipality. Staff at the car workshops were angry with the announcement, arguing that they worked for popular, legitimate businesses.

A 365-day grace period from the date of the last renewal of the businesses' commercial licences will be granted to about 2,500 shops in the capital. All businesses relating to vehicles, such as shops providing tyres, car batteries, upholstery, electronics, window tinting and other services and accessories, must also leave the central business district. That district is defined by the areas between the Corniche and Al Falah Street (9th Street), and between Meena Street and King Khalid bin Abdul Aziz Street (26th Street). The areas beyond those borders are considered the outskirts of Abu Dhabi Island, the municipality said.

Carpenters and glass workshops as well as scrap metal shops will be shifted to Musaffah. Car dealerships, showrooms and Adnoc service stations will be the only auto-related businesses that are exempt from the move. A spokesman from the municipality said the move was part of the capital's "beautification" efforts and would also benefit residents by easing up congestion in areas such as Al Falah Street and Salam Street.

Dozens of auto repair shops for air-conditioning units and electronics line those two avenues. The businesses are an eyesore, according to the municipality. Shop employees sit outside the shops, fanning themselves on plastic chairs while workers crawl beneath the cars or tinker in open bonnets. A press release said the new locations would "eliminate the phenomenon of utilising pavements and car parks in a way disfiguring the general appearance" and would "ensure vocational safety at workshops and outlets, and provide a healthy working environment such as lighting and ventilation".

But Shahzad Butt, who has worked for four years at the Shahid autoshop on Al Falah Street, said customers from the city will not drive to the outskirts. "People live here, they want to stay here," he said. "We work for them and they like it." The repairman, 24, is considering moving back to Pakistan if the change is enforced. Down the street, Ibrahim Mohammed, with Al Jazeerah Tyre Trading, complained that one year was hardly enough notice from the "baladia", which is Arabic for municipality.

"You open shop for five years, working in shop little and little," he said. "Then baladia speaks - 'OK, you must go now.' This is too much bad." A spokesman said municipal employees visited the owners of the outlets to brief them on the plan. Faz Mohammed, from Afghanistan, estimated it would cost Dh500,000 to 600,000 to open up a new electronic parts shop in the outskirts. He would likely not be able to afford those costs. "This is a big problem," he said. "It's very expensive."

Mohammed Khalaf, a customer looking for a brake part yesterday on Al Falah Street, hoped the move would bring down costs. "I come here to buy sometimes," the Palestinian, 22, said. "But it's totally expensive. It's like triple the price over here for some parts, if you compare to Musaffah." The new measures were announced yesterday in co-ordination with the Urban Planning Council and the Department of Economic Development.

The measures would "contribute to making Abu Dhabi city one of the best cosmopolitan cities worldwide", a press release said.