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The Warsaw Voice » Real Estate » May 14, 2008
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Simplifying or Oversimplifying the Construction Process
May 14, 2008   
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Marcin Jasiński, senior associate at GLN law firm, answers some fundamental questions about planned changes in construction law and zoning law.

What are the most frequent obstacles met by developers carrying out construction investments?
Firstly, most land on which construction investments could be carried out is not included in local zoning plans. Furthermore, there is still a lot of land in cities that is qualified as arable land, which must be changed before an investor can file a building permit application; this may also involve a complicated and prolonged procedure of land division (there is no legal period for a proper authority to issue a decision on division of the land).

Why does the lack of a local zoning plan constitute an obstacle in carrying out investments?
If there is no local zoning plan for the land intended for the investment, then, before applying for a building permit, the investor must currently apply for and receive a planning permit (for a public investment or otherwise).

The need to go through an additional planning permit stage can lead to long delays in the investment process. The permit-issuing authority may choose to suspend the process (for up to 12 months), and in some cases, where drawing up a local zoning plan is compulsory, the whole process will be put on hold until the plan is in place. In this case there is nothing that the investor can do except wait.

Is the government aware of the difficulties in carrying out building investments? Are they taking any steps to remedy the situation?
Judging by numerous press statements from officials at the Ministry of Infrastructure, this is a hot topic. The ministry is preparing a package of amendments to building laws, including amendments to the Building Law and the Zoning Law. Unfortunately, apart from a planned amendment to the Building Law extending the validity of a building permit from two years to three, no other draft amendments have yet been forwarded to the lower house of parliament. The amendments were planned to be sent for parliamentary consultation in April of this year, but no further news has been forthcoming.

What other amendments is the Ministry of Infrastructure intending to introduce?
We can conclude from the available information, of which there is little, that the general aim of the amendments is to simplify the administrative proceedings related to building investments as far as possible. For areas not included in a local zoning plan, local authorities would prepare urban regulations defining the main areas for development, for example areas intended for car parks, urban greenery and so on. For small investments, if the legal requirements are met, the investor will have to make an urban declaration to the local authority and wait 30 days. For larger investments, such as housing estates, an implementation plan should be prepared by the investor.

For areas covered in a local zoning plan, no building permit for any investment will be required. Investors will only be obliged to file an application on registration, a building design and a declaration of holding title to the land. After checking the application and the designer's qualifications, a local official has 30 days in which to register the construction or refuse it. There is no information so far available in connection with potential appeal measures that may be used by third parties with an interest in the proceedings. If no appeal possibilities are in place, then there is a risk that the amendments in this concern may be deemed unconstitutional.

However, it should be pointed out that all the information on the planned amendments comes from information gleaned from officials working at the Ministry of Infrastructure. A full appraisal will only be possible when draft legal acts are forwarded to the Sejm.
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