On 1 January 2018 a comprehensive amendment to the Building Act (the “Amendment”) entered into force in the Czech Republic. With the aim of simplifying and speeding up the approval/permission procedure, the Amendment contains significant changes for either developers or smaller builders. It is important to be aware that although the Amendment introduces changes intended to speed up construction, it also contains certain deficiencies.
The significant aspects of the Amendment include:
- New coordinated proceeding
Previously, the zoning proceeding, building proceeding and environmental impact assessment proceeding were conducted separately. The Amendment permits the combination of these three proceedings into one coordinated proceeding, which will result in a single permit for the construction. A coordinated proceeding is not obligatory and, therefore, it is up to developers to elect this option. We expect that this will help to speed up and simplify the construction of smaller buildings, however this is unlikely to be the case for larger developments. In the case of big projects, the coordinated proceeding may be disadvantageous, as the preparation of documentation will be complex and detailed and there is a risk of redrafting during the proceeding, which can be more costly than in the case of separate proceedings.
- Limitation of participation of the environmental association
The environmental association may now only enter into proceedings where an environmental impact assessment is taking place and/or a proceeding under the Nature and Landscape Protection Act. Therefore, the environmental associations will participate in fewer numbers of proceedings. We note that currently there is a petition filed against this change at the Constitutional Court, however a hearing is yet to be ordered.
- Changes in binding opinions
Firstly, the Amendment introduces a new binding opinion issued by a special body on territorial planning in order to assess the compliance of the construction with territorial planning. Prior to January 2018, such compliance was assessed by the building authority within the zoning proceedings. The new binding opinion is more difficult to review (please see below) and developers should be aware of its limited validity of two years.
Secondly, the only possibility to review an incorrect binding opinion is to appeal against the decision based on this binding opinion within less than one year from the issuance of the binding opinion. For example, if the proceeding and the issuance of the appeal decision take longer than one year, there is a risk that the binding opinion cannot be challenged. In our view, this is a defect in the Amendment and the petition has also been filed against this change at the Constitution Court.
- Planning documentation
The Amendment potentially shortens the process for changing a territorial plan by approximately 6 – 24 months. Authorities will have to publish planning documentation on the internet as well as complete updated documentation when updating/modifying the document. This should lead to higher transparency, greater certainty and easier navigation in documentation.
We note that the Ministry for Regional Development are already preparing a completely new Building Act. Although, we do not expect this to become effective in the next five years.
If you have any questions related to the Amendment, please do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our contacts.