Next government looks set to change the Building Act. What can we expect?
Source: Hospodářské noviny
Author of comment: Mgr. et Mgr. Ing. Jan Tomíšek
The rules that will dictate how the Czech Republic builds in the coming years are still unclear. In July, the Chamber of Deputies overrode a Senate veto and approved a new building law which is to replace the existing Building Act from 2006. But this was despite considerable opposition from the parties that have subsequently achieved a majority in the Chamber and are currently forming a new government. It therefore seems relevant to ask what the new parties in power will do with the new building law.
The most likely scenario is a partial postponement of the law’s entry into force. In this case, the law will only apply to “reserved constructions”, i.e. projects such as motorways, railways or large power plants, applied for after the original deadline of 1 July 2023. A Specialized and Appellate Construction Authority will begin to authorize them from that date. For other construction projects, such as apartment buildings, the current 2006 Building Act will apply and until 1 July 2024 such projects will be authorized by the current municipal building authorities.
The aim of the postponement is to prevent the establishment of regional building authorities, which are to replace municipal authorities in the future. This change has been the greatest target of criticism from the five-party coalition so far. According to the new building law, regional building authorities will formally come into existence in just a few weeks, on New Year’s Day. In order to prevent their establishment, the postponement of the effective date would have to be published in the Collection of Laws by the end of the year.
However, even if this postponement does not happen, it is likely that the five-party coalition will amend the provisions of the new building law and approve a deferral to after the start of the New Year. Regional building authorities will then come into existence, but they will exist only on paper until they are abolished by a substantive amendment to the law. This amendment is what the five-party coalition is trying to buy time for with the postponement. A partial postponement should therefore mean that the benefits of the new Building Act in the form of easier permitting of strategic buildings can be introduced within the original timeframe, while leaving room to amend other, controversial aspects of the Act.
It is thus quite clear that regional building authorities will not survive a substantive amendment to the Act penned by the five-party coalition. On the contrary, there seems to be a consensus among the current and future government on the need for a new specialized construction authority for strategic buildings. The specialized construction authority will therefore almost certainly be retained. What is unclear is the fate of the “head” of the structure of state construction authorities, the Supreme Construction Authority.
However, a more important question than the future of this office is what will form the basis of the building system – i.e. who will authorize and how will other than reserved buildings be authorized in the first instance. It is clear from the original position of the five-party coalition that decision-making will return to municipalities in some form and to regions in the second stage. However, the specific form of the process, including the “integration” of “affected bodies”, which include, for example, conservationists, is still open. The question is whether integration at the level of the municipality with extended competence could be the solution. It is these municipalities that today issue a large part of the binding opinions as a basis for decisions of the construction authority.
However, if it were the municipality with extended competence that acted as the construction authority, it could replace all binding opinions with a single decision that would also take into account the interests that the authority defends as the relevant authority itself – all without any relocation of officials. In smaller municipalities, the construction authority could then have a local office. However, only the coming months will tell whether the five-party coalition takes this path.
In any event it is quite clear that regional building offices will not survive the amendment to the law by the five-party coalition.
The commentary was printed in Hospodářské noviny on 24 November 2021.