On 14 January 2022, the Government of the Slovak Republic submitted a draft law on urban planning and a draft law on construction to the National Council of the Slovak Republic for discussion. The new separate law on urban planning and the new separate law on construction are to replace one original law on urban planning and construction regulations (the Construction Act) from 1976. Both new draft laws are currently in the legislative process and the new legislation is proposed to come into force on 1 January 2023.
The new legal regulation aims to digitise processes and data related to urban planning and construction and combine them into a single information system for urban planning and construction, in which data and information from urban planning documents, selected decisions of construction authorities and verified design documentation of buildings are to be stored and published.
The new Act on urban planning also seeks to standardize and simplify the process of urban planning, which should enable both a simplification of procedures (cancellation of certain parts of the proceedings, cancelation of the examination of certain documents, harmonization with environmental impact assessment processes) and also the gradual digitalization of data on the territory, new urban planning documentation in a unified form, and implementation of the urban planning process in an electronic form through the information system and by professionally competent persons.
The newly established Office for Urban Planning and Construction of the Slovak Republic (“Úrad pre územné plánovanie a výstavbu Slovenskej republiky“) (hereinafter "the Office") will operate at the level of the central state administration body for urban planning. The Office is to establish regional offices for urban planning and construction and determine their territorial jurisdiction. There are to be eight regional offices, each in the seat of a region. The Office is to be the administrator and operator of the information system for urban planning and construction, the public part of which is to be available on the Office's website. Urban planning is to remain the competence of municipal authorities, while the Office has responsibility for preparing the Concept of Urban Development of Slovakia and to act mainly as a coordinator of a unified procedure and processes of urban planning by means of methodological guidelines. The existing stages of urban planning documentation are to be maintained, while the new Act on Urban Planning adds a new type of urban planning documentation – the micro-region plan.
In addition to the aforementioned digitalization of data and the standardization of construction-related processes, the aim of the new Construction Act is also to make the state administration for construction more professional, reduce the administrative burden in construction-related activities and simplify the process of building permits.
The newly established Office will operate at the level of the central body of state administration in construction. The decision-making power for building permits will be changed and centralised in such a way that the power of the existing construction authorities/municipalities is transferred to the individual regional offices for urban planning and construction and their workplaces established by the Office with the territorial jurisdiction determined by the Office. The competences of the existing special construction offices are to be maintained, except for the special construction offices for the construction of motorways, railways and airports.
The new Construction Act also regulates in more detail the status of all persons involved in construction and their rights and obligations (e.g. builders, the construction contractor, architect, persons authorized to supervise the construction process, construction manager, construction surveyor and owner of the structured under construction) (“stavebník, zhotoviteľ stavby, projektant, osoba poverená vykonávať stavebný dozor, stavbyvedúci, geodet stavby a vlastník stavby”) and also defines in more detail "minor construction" (“malá stavba”), "simple construction" (“jednoduchá stavba”), "reserved construction" (“vyhradená stavba”) and "construction documentation" (“dokumentácia stavby”) (design, execution and operational documentation) (“projektovú, realizačnú a prevádzkovú“).
The procedure for building permits will be simplified. This will be achieved both by simplifying the procedure and digitising it. The process of obtaining a building permit will be carried out through the information system for urban planning and construction and through professionally competent persons who will arrange the building permitting process on behalf of the builder.
In general, construction approval will be based on a decision on the construction plan (“rozhodnutie o stavebnom zámere”), to be issued by the competent construction office – the regional urban planning and construction office. The 'construction permit' (“stavebné povolenie”) will be replaced by a 'construction plan decision' (“rozhodnutie o stavebnom zámere“). The issuance of the 'construction plan decision' will be preceded by a discussion of the draft construction plan decision with all the relevant public authorities, the legal entities concerned, the relevant municipality and the owners of neighbouring land and buildings. Municipalities, as urban planning authorities, or the affected local authorities, will issue a 'binding opinion' on the compliance of the draft construction plan with the binding part of the relevant urban planning documentation. At this stage of the procedure, the draft construction plan and its impact on the environment should also be discussed with the environmental impact assessment body. The entire process of approval of the draft construction plan, including its negotiation and discussion with all the affected subjects, must be ensured for the builder by a professionally competent person – the construction engineer (“projektant”). The construction permit process will also be simplified and shortened, due to the fact that the assessment of the construction plan will not take place in a two-stage administrative procedure – in the urban planning procedure and in the construction procedure, where in many cases the authorities concerned and the parties to the procedure have expressed their views on the matter in duplicate. The construction plan procedure is to be followed by verification of the construction project. The completed construction will be subject to a use approval process (“kolaudácia”), with the construction office certifying the compliance of the construction with its intended purpose by means of a construction use certificate/permit (“kolaudačné osvedčenie stavby“). For simple constructions (according to the legal definition), a simplified procedure for the construction permit will apply. If the construction plan is drawn up with the details of the construction project, the decision on the construction plan will be, at the same time, the verification of the construction project. Minor constructions (according to the legal definition) will be subject to the notification, which will be a simple and fully electronic procedure. The construction office will issue the builder with confirmation of the notification of the construction (“potvrdenie o ohlásení stavby“).
The new Construction Act is also intended to address the current society-wide problem of a reduced level of discipline in construction by not providing for additional legalisation of so-called black construction and by clarifying the procedure of the construction office in the case of unauthorised construction works and their removal, in particular by precisely defining "unauthorised construction works" (“nepovolené stavebné práce“) (so that in the course of construction it is possible to identify, by comparison with the construction project, that the construction works give rise to a so-called black construction) and the conditions and procedure for their removal.
The new Construction Act also extends the circle of sanctionable subjects in case of violation of the Construction Act to other persons involved in construction – the construction contractor, the person in charge of construction supervision and the construction manager.
There has been quite an extensive public debate on both government draft new laws and both draft laws have attracted a large number of comments during the first and subsequent readings by the relevant ministries before being submitted to parliament for approval. A number of concerns resonate with the professional public, for example whether the new construction legislation is sufficiently balanced, whether it prioritises the interests of developers over the interests of the public and public interests in the area, including nature conservation, and whether it addresses long-standing issues such as the length of proceedings and bureaucratisation, and whether the possibility of obstruction on the part of the parties to the proceedings is not being achieved at the expense of the legal rights of the existing parties to the proceedings, in breach of the international conventions to which the Slovak Republic is bound, and, finally, whether the new legislation was introduced into Parliament prematurely and without taking into account the many views and comments of some ministers, MPs, representatives of towns and municipalities, self-governing regions and the construction sector itself. Concerns have also been raised about the threat of making the construction process significantly more expensive, particularly with regard to the disproportionate increase in the construction fee and the possible introduction of a fee for the use of the information system. However, the greatest concern relates to the sufficiency of the readiness and enforceability of the new construction legislation as a whole. The biggest critics claim that the new construction legislation is "half-baked", where several necessary areas are not addressed at all, where there are contradictions between different parts of the laws and implementing regulations, where terms are meaninglessly defined and confused throughout the draft, and where most of the necessary legislation and key rules do not yet exist, as it is to be completed only in further legislation during 2022, where the new construction legislation as presented has the potential to create chaos and confusion due to ambiguities in the law and thus create room for non-transparent and corrupt behaviour and should therefore be withdrawn from the next legislative process and a completely new construction legislation should be drafted.
For more information:
Jozef Bannert (Partner)
Tel: +421 (2) 20 64 85 80