One of the objectives of the comprehensive overhaul of today’s building law is to substantially expedite and simplify the procedure for obtaining all relevant permits for carrying out a building project. However, the bill for a new Building Act still has a bumpy road ahead of it.
In a study published by the World Bank, “Doing Business”, which among other things takes a look at the length of building permission procedures, the Czech Republic ended up 156th among 190 surveyed countries. According to the statistics, a standardized building permission procedure in the Czech Republic takes 246 days on average. Before going into summer recess, the government passed a white paper for a new Building Act. The planned ‘recodification’ of building law promises to fix the embarrassing state of affairs and to speed up and improve the efficiency of administrative procedures in the area of zoning and permitting.
The existing range of procedures in this area should newly be merged into a single procedure – the building permitting procedure, to be conducted before a specialized building office. Government oversight would no longer be delegated to, and exercised by, territorial self-governing units. Rather, a unified system of professional civil servants would be created and endowed with the competencies of the current building offices of all types and all levels. At the apex of the new system would be a newly created Supreme Building Office.
The unified permission procedure includes the current zoning procedure (in its various manifestations), the environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedure, and many other sub-procedures on the issuance of binding opinions under special laws. A positive outcome of this unified procedure means that the applicant holds a final permit based upon which they may carry out their building project.
Another new concept, which is highly contested politically (but will certainly be welcome in practice), is the stipulation of binding time limits for the issuance of the building office’s decision and, in particular, the consequences of the office’s failure to observe these limits: if the building office does not arrive at a decision within the building permission procedure before the statutory time period runs out, the information system will automatically generate a positive decision (i.e., approve the building project).
The white paper for the new law, prepared by the ministry of regional development and greenlighted by the government, has already been the target of much reproof by both experts and the general public. Critics complain that the draft is sidelining public interest, especially with respect to nature conservation and monument protection. Some believe that the above-mentioned default permit opens the door to corruption.
If everything goes according to plan, an articulated version of the bill, arranged into sections, ought to be available by the end of October 2019, to be heard and discussed by both chambers of parliament in the course of fall 2020, and then be signed by the president. The new act would come into effect in January 2023. However, most experts doubt that this timetable is realistic, given the fierce criticism.