April 2023 – An amendment to Act no. 283/2021, Building Act (the “New Building Act”) has been approved by the Chamber of Deputies, bringing key changes to Czech construction laws and permitting processes (the “New Amendment”). The New Amendment has been passed to the Senate, which should approve it shortly. The original New Building Act, representing a major change of Czech building regulations, was adopted back in July 2021.
The law introduced key changes, for example creating a new system of building authorities, consolidating permitting into a single per-project permit, and introducing limitations on the appeals process. However, mostly due to political reasons the effectivity of the law’s key provisions was postponed to 30 June 2024 by New Building Act’s first amendment, namely Act no. 195/2002 Coll, adopted in June 2022. Nevertheless, politicians leaded to a far more significant New Building Act amendment that aims to change many mechanisms and provisions in the New Building Act.
In any event, the legislative process related to the New Amendment is not finished yet and the New Amendment may be amended; however, content of the New Amendment is viewed as a compromise between Czech political parties. Therefore, we assume that the current form of the Amendment represents the form that will be adopted in the near future, introducing new features to the Czech permitting and construction process.
The original aim of the New Building Act was to ensure fast, simple and transparent construction procedures under the principle of “one authority, one procedure, one stamp”. The New Amendment moderates this approach somewhat, but still retains policies designed to speed up and simplify construction procedures, in particular:
Contrary to current practice, the New Building Act abandons the two-phase permitting procedure, with separate planning and building permits replaced by a single project permit. As a result, simplified project documentation will be sufficient to issue a permit, which means that construction-related procedures should be expedited, with building authorities making decisions within stricter fixed deadlines. Permits for simple structures (e.g. family houses) will be issued within 30 days. Furthermore, the concerned authorities will have to issue an opinion within a fixed deadline. The New Building Act also introduced accelerated proceedings and framework permit proceedings with a view to further reducing red tape. In addition, public objections to permits will be limited, as will the ability to appeal a permit or to file for remedial measures.
Building Authority System
In a change to the New Building Act, the New Amendment abolishes plans for a Supreme Building Authority which oversees a nationwide system of building authorities and instead maintains the current building authority framework spread across towns and municipalities. Specialised building authorities (e.g. water building authorities for water structures) will be abolished. However, a new Transport and Energy Building Authority will be the competent authority of the first instance for certain designated buildings (mainly significant transportation structures and with respect to technical infrastructure, e.g. highways or pipelines), with Ministry of Trade along with the Ministry of Transport becoming the competent authorities for submitting appeals. The New Amendment withdraws the institutional integration of the concerned authorities – as a result, no officials will be transferred to different authorities and binding opinions will still be required for the issuance of a permit. However, the New Amendment stipulates a new obligation to prepare a single combined (“coordinated”) opinion alongside a single environmental opinion.
Zoning plans and planning agreements
Under the New Building Act, the procedure for changing zoning plans (in order to prepare areas for an intended project) will be shortened and simplified, and new uniform standard for zoning plans will be introduced. During the procedure for adopting a new zoning plan, a joint meeting of the concerned authorities along with a public hearing will both be able to take place in one day – thus, an entire phase of discussing the zoning plan amendment will be eliminated. Also limited are public objections and remedial measures.
The New Building Act also regulates planning agreements, under which an investor can make a cooperation agreement with a municipality, region or owner of technical infrastructure in relation to project construction. For example, an investor will build a kindergarten for a municipality and the municipality will support the investor’s project. However, such a system could create a risk of systematic bias or favouritism, which should be considered in these cases.
From the beginning of 2024, construction proceedings will be available in a digital format. For these purposes, a new builder’s website will be established, chiefly used for communicating with the building authorities, submitting applications, and for obtaining information about pending building proceedings. No special software will be required to use such a site, and users will be able to use electronic identification methods (e.g. a bank identity).