After a long time, the legislative procedure of the Building Act amendment has come to an end. The draft of this awaited amendment was definitively adopted by the Czech Parliament on the 27th June 2017 and was published in the Collection of Laws on the 31st July 2017. The aim of the original draft presented by the Ministry for Regional Development was to accelerate the procedures under the Building Act and other relevant acts. In the following legislative procedure in the lower and the upper chamber of the Parliament, there was a significant number of modifying proposals. The final version of the amendment involves some of them, others has not been adopted. The amendment is expected to enter into force in the beginning of 2018. In the text below, we would like to point out the most important changes compared to the current regulation.

The leading idea of this Building Act amendment was simplification and acceleration of the permit procedure in general. In certain aspects, these goals should be met. Especially the building of family houses and related small buildings (such as pools etc.) will clearly be more simple since in some cases it is no longer needed necessary to apply for any building permit and in other cases, people will only have to announce the building to local Building Authority.  

On the other hand, there are also other issues in which it is debatable, whether the adopted version represents the key instrument for effective simplification. One of the major changes according to the original draft was the introduction of a “coordinated procedure” and the integration of the EIA within the permit procedure, which is supposed to be used particularly in connection with the line traffic structures and other large projects. The outcome for the developers is clear- only one procedure, one documentation, and only one threat of possible law suit. However, it is a choice of the developer whether to choose this new option or to undertake the current procedure of a number of separate procedures. Some professionals from the building industry say that it might be still more effective to undertake all of the procedures separately. The disadvantage of the “coordinated procedure” is rather obvious- if the developer has an unsuitable project for any reason, the edits might involve not only the particular part but the relevant parts throughout the whole design documentation as well. Therefore, it is argued that these situations can be prevented by “going step by step” in order to comprehend these edits into documentation provided in following procedures.

It is questionable which of the procedures will take less time. One of the key attributes will be the presence of the public in the coordinated procedure which was one of the major topics in the discussion about the amendment. On one hand, under the amended Building Act the public can object in only one stage because of the coordination of relevant procedures. On the other hand, for that reason there will be more of these objections which demands much higher caution from the relevant body in elaborating the final decision to be tenable before the administrative courts. An omission of resolving every public objection can lead to an annulment of the whole decision. In this matter, we have to wait for the practice in order to discover, whether this amendment will bring the intended acceleration of the procedure.

Another widely discussed controversy in the legislative procedure was the subsumption of the water works under the list of structures which can be proceeded in the coordinated procedure. The final version of adopted amendment contains this option. Under the current regulation, it is needed for every water works to obtain a special water permit as an outcome from a special procedure with a water authority. In the coordinated procedure, this authority will not issue the special permit but will only provide its binding opinion within the whole procedure as we already indicated in our previous article (CS12 [2016] 1 ENV. LIABILITY : CURRENT SURVEY : EUROPEAN UNION). In this article we described the possible difficulties concerning the water management permit. The adopted amendment ensures that at least in case of coordinated procedure, developers will be able to avoid another special procedure. This solution appears to be effective enough for developers in order to accelerate the procedure while sustaining an option for certain water authorities to secure their participation in the procedure.

As for the binding opinion in general, the current Administrative Act does not regulate its structure. The authority issuing the binding opinion provides the applicant with a set of conditions which needed to be resolved in order to obtain the building permit. However, it has often happened that the issuing authorities have exceeded their powers and their binding opinions have contained conditions related to powers of different authority. After the adoption of the amendment, the authorities are obliged to give reasons leading to the opinion and to provide the relevant materials. This should ensure not only a higher quality in the binding opinions but also a better position for contesting them. 

Another crucial issue from the last part of the abovementioned article was reducing the periods for the commencement of a review procedure, the subject of which is a measure of a general nature under the Building Act and/or the period for submitting a motion for the cancellation of a measure of a general nature at an administrative court. The new maximum period for commencement of a review procedure was reduced from three years to only one year.

As we mentioned in our previous article the preparation of the act on the line traffic structures was suspended. One of the few changes related to the line traffic structures worth to mention is the new jurisdiction of the court for the proceedings against the decisions permitting the placement or the building of line traffic structure. These proceedings will be adjudicated by a special senate within the County Court in Ostrava.

This amendment is certainly the largest amendment of current Building Act in past years but it amends around thirty other acts as well. Because of the number of alternations in the original draft during the legislative procedure, the time and the practice will definitely open another issues derived from the amendment. The Ministry of Regional Development recently informed that it had already started to work on the new Building Act. According to the estimations it will not be adopted in less than five years, though. Therefore, there will be enough time to analyze in detail not only the hidden issues of the amendment itself but the practical experience as well.