Czech Republic: Quicker process for obtaining building permits for new construction projects?
Practice has shown time and time again that obtaining planning permission and building permits for buildings, landscaping or installations in the Czech Republic is an exceedingly long and complicated process. According to the World Bank Group, it takes an average of 247 days to obtain a building permit, ranking the Czech Republic in 130th place in the world.
A bill (the “Bill”) proposing an amendment to Czech Act No. 183/2006 Col. on town and country planning and building regulations (the “Building Act”) drafted by the Ministry of Regional Development intends to amend the procedure and adapt existing legal regulations to reflect the growing Czech economy and the consequent demand for new infrastructure and housing, office and industrial projects. The major changes proposed in the Bill include especially:
- shortening the process for adopting changes and updating planning documentation; updating the analytical planning details once every four years (instead of every two years);
- use of information included in the analytical planning details in all activities by public authorities (up to now its use was allowed only with respect to country and town planning);
- coordinated proceedings combining environmental impact assessment proceedings, planning permission proceedings and building permit proceedings, which will result in single permit for the construction;
- a mandatory final inspection approval for all buildings and installations.
The Bill also proposes amendments to almost 40 acts regulating matters directly linked to the Czech Building Act. The integrity of the Bill was threatened as more than 300 changes were submitted by MPs and Karla Šlechtová, Minister of Regional Development, considered withdrawing the Bill if so many crucial changes were to be made. However, the Bill was adopted by the Chamber of Deputies, the Czech lower house of parliament, in April.
Recently, the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs recommended rejecting the Bill. The Senate is due to discuss the Bill during its next plenary meeting, starting on 31 May. In the event that the Senate rejects the Bill, the Chamber of Deputies can vote on it again and pass it by a majority of all MPs. However, an election for the lower house of the Parliament taking place in October 2017 may interfere with the adoption of the Bill.
The Bill was criticised among others by environmental organisations and the Public Defender of Rights, saying that some of the organisations should not be allowed to participate in the coordinated proceedings and that the procedural rights of the other participants will be limited. Such changes are believed to be in conflict with the Aarhus Convention.3
Surprisingly, even developers do not believe that the adoption of the Bill will make a huge difference to the development of new construction projects. The necessary construction of highways connecting major Czech cities is largely dependent on the adoption of new act speeding up approval of the transport infrastructure (such as roads and railways). The draft legislation has not yet been approved by the government and therefore its adoption has been postponed until after the election in October 2017.
If the Bill is adopted, it will become effective in January 2018 at the earliest, six months after its adoption. Hopefully, the Czech Republic will then score a better in next year’s report by the World Bank Group.