The Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic has decided on a one-year postponement of the effectiveness of part of the Construction Act. Instead of the planned central construction office, which the previous government of Andrej Babiš wanted, they are preparing the digitalisation of the process, the Czech Press Agency reports.
The ruling coalition in the lower house, despite opposition, pushed through a one-year postponement of the creation of the Supreme Construction Office and regional construction offices established under it, which were envisaged in the new construction law from last year. According to this law, these offices were to start functioning in the middle of next year and were to replace the current construction offices under municipalities and towns. The government coalition is preparing a substantive amendment to the Construction Act, which abolishes the establishment of the Supreme Construction Office and retains some of the construction offices under municipalities. However, the government's proposal to postpone the effective date has yet to be decided by the Senate and signed by the President. The entire parliamentary debate on the postponement was accompanied by disputes between the ruling coalition and the opposition, which is against the postponement.
New: A specialised construction authority
The amendment, approved on 13 May, foresees that only the Specialised and Appellate Construction Office will start operating from the middle of next year. It will be in charge of large infrastructure constructions such as motorways, national railways or power plants. Other constructions will be subject to permitting under existing regulations until 30 June 2024. The digitalisation of construction procedures has also been postponed by six months to 1 January 2024, following a proposal by the House Public Administration Committee. "We will prevent the collapse of the construction procedure in the Czech Republic," Regional Development Minister Ivan Bartos (Pirates) told reporters. "Today we have saved the construction offices in towns and municipalities," said Jan Jakob, chairman of the TOP 09 club. He added that this would prevent the creation of a "megalomaniac" construction office that would be distant from the people.
The new building law has been in the pipeline for many years. It was approved by the lower house last summer despite the Senate's veto. Then the government of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš had hoped to speed up construction procedures by meeting the deadlines. The law transferred all existing construction authorities from municipalities to the state and created a state construction administration. The current coalition politicians criticized the new construction law while still in opposition to the last term. In their view, it will disrupt the construction process and put the construction authorities further away from the citizens. Former Minister of Regional Development Klára Dostálová (ANO) disagrees and points out that the territorial offices would remain where they are now.
What is being abolished and how it will be further?
A substantive amendment to the new construction law by the Ministry of Regional Development abolishes the Supreme Construction Office and the new system of regional construction offices subordinate to it, saying it was unnecessarily expensive and impractical. Among other things, it retains some of the building authorities under municipalities. This would leave 371 building offices, with a maximum commuting distance of 35 km, instead of the current 700 or so. "The new construction law of the previous government abolished all municipal construction offices. Only 14 regional state building offices would remain, which could set up branches at most, and only at the discretion of the (regional) office director. Our amendment to the Construction Act does not abolish the offices, but on the contrary, saves them," said Minister Bartoš.
The ministry expects to submit the amendment to the government by the end of June. Bartoš is also preparing an amendment on spatial planning for the second half of the year. The House of Commons could start debating the amendment in the autumn. In a package with the amendment to the Construction Act, the Ministry of Environment's (MoE) law on the unified environmental statement (UES) is also expected to be discussed. This is intended to consolidate the necessary environmental permits into a single output.
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