From 1 January 2015, applicants in proceedings seeking permission to construct, reconstruct or extend retail units larger than 400mmust seek the opinion of the head of the Government Office of Hajdú-Bihar County (the competent authority with national jurisdiction).

This changes coincides with the end of the three-year moratorium on the construction of retail units larger than 300 m2 from 1 January 2012 to 31 December 2014.

Before starting building authority proceedings, applicants may seek a preliminary opinion (valid for one year), by providing the Government Office with the design plans, main data, planned size and projected turnover.

The Government Office must decide whether the detrimental consequences of the proposed retail unit would outweigh its possible advantages, taking into account the specific requirements for commercial buildings relating to the environment, transportation and urban development in the government decree (which the Government is authorised to enact by the amendment).

When issuing its opinion, the Government Office must take into account the opinion of a five-person committee appointed by the ministers responsible for construction matters, commerce, environment, transportation and urban development and planning. The committee has sixty days (longer in exceptional circumstances) to form an opinion based on its analysis of the environmental, transportation and developmental effects of constructing the unit on the city where it would be located.

Unlike the current rules effective until 1 January 2015, under which applicants may seek judicial review of committee decisions not to grant permission, the new rules allow applicants to appeal to the Government Office of Heves County against any building authority decision and then to seek judicial review of the Government Office decision. Although in theory this gives applicants an additional remedy, in practice we think that the chances of successfully reviewing committee or Government Office decisions is relatively low given their wide discretionary powers.

Law: amendment of Act LXXVIII of 1997 on the Formation and Protection of the Built Environment