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The Warsaw Voice » Real Estate » January 13, 2010
12th Investors' Obstacle Course Conference
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Investors Wait for Better Legislation
January 13, 2010 By A.R.    
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Successive governments have not yet delivered on promises to simplify and shorten the process of planning and carrying out construction projects in Poland.

It is no secret that Polish law is not particularly friendly to potential investors. Periodical reports published by Polish and international institutions point to the numerous problems in Polish law that make the construction process longer, costlier and riskier than it needs be. For 12 years now, investors-including builders, developers, energy companies and telecommunications operators-have pinpointed a series of legal and administrative barriers to construction projects at the Investors' Obstacle Course conference, which has become a professional platform for the exchange of views and experiences between investors carrying out infrastructure and building projects on the one hand, and central and local government officials and parliamentarians on the other. And what has been the effect? For the time being, unspectacular.

Investors say the thorough legal reforms promised by the government have not materialized. Such reforms involve several laws, including the law on land planning and management and the law on environmental protection, in addition to construction, land surveying and energy laws. But the situation of investors may improve in the near future because parliament has recently passed several legal measures aiming to make life easier for them.

Work on the construction law has attracted the greatest interest. Passed by parliament last year, the amendments to the construction law have been hailed as a big step toward making the investment process in the construction sector simpler. Do the new regulations mean this will finally happen? Opinions are divided, but the very fact that the new regulations have been passed by parliament bodes well for the future.

The amendments to the construction law are supposed to make life easier for investors by considerably shortening the time needed to plan projects. This is expected to boost the economy and make it more competitive. If the new regulations come into force, the construction process will change considerably.

It is unclear when the new law will come into force because President Lech Kaczyński, after a request from the ombudsman, has asked the Constitutional Court to examine the amendments. At present, neighbors are allowed to take an active part in the building permit procedure and have the right to appeal against a decision to grant a building permit. The amendments do not give them this right, which according to the president means that the owners of properties affected by a new project would lose their constitutional right to argue their case in court.

Lifting the obligation to apply for building permits is the most important change in the amendments. Under the current rules, which will be in force until the president signs the new amendments into law, construction work can only be carried out if the investor receives a final decision granting a building permit. The construction law now in force contains a list of building works for which such a decision is not required. Additionally, some construction works, especially those exempted from the requirement to have a building permit, may be carried out as long as the authorities have been notified.

Under the new regulations, the investor would be required to notify a civil engineering authority about a planned construction project and would have the right to start construction works 30 days after submitting the notification on condition that the authority in question does not object to the project in the form of an administrative decision. The draft amendments also specify the types of construction works for which an investor would not be required to submit any notification and the types of works that would require notification but would not need a construction design. The amendments remove the need for construction designs to be approved by an administrative decision. Up to now construction designs have had to be approved in the course of the building permit procedure or under a separate administrative decision.

Additionally, the amendments would lift the obligation to obtain a use permit. Up to now the investor has been required to receive a use permit if the building or structure has been constructed under a building permit and belongs to a specific category, or if the relevant authority has imposed this obligation on the investor, or if the investor plans to start using the building or structure before all construction works have been completed.

Also worth mentioning are changes to the procedure of obtaining official retrospective clearance for unauthorized development. Under the current regulations, it is possible to obtain clearance for unauthorized buildings or structures constructed without a building permit if they are in compliance with regulations and on condition that the investor pays a legalization fee.

The amendments also significantly change the course of the building process. At the moment, the investor has to wait for the authorities to issue decisions, something that considerably extends the construction process ahead of the start of construction works. The new regulations would reduce the number of administrative decisions required, which will shorten the length of time before a project can be started.

Under the new regulations, the investor would only be required to offer an opportunity for civil engineering authorities to step in. If the authorities take no action, the investor will be allowed to go ahead with the project without any constraints.
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