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New construction law in pipeline

SLOVAKIA’S obsolete construction law continues to be a thorn in the side of the business sector, municipalities and ordinary citizens. The current law dates back to 1976, and even though it has undergone extensive revamps, it is no longer suited to the conditions of a modern country. Preparation of a brand new construction law has been on the government’s agenda for many years, and the Ministry of Transport, Construction and Regional Development finally introduced a draft bill on July 18.

SLOVAKIA’S obsolete construction law continues to be a thorn in the side of the business sector, municipalities and ordinary citizens. The current law dates back to 1976, and even though it has undergone extensive revamps, it is no longer suited to the conditions of a modern country. Preparation of a brand new construction law has been on the government’s agenda for many years, and the Ministry of Transport, Construction and Regional Development finally introduced a draft bill on July 18.

“We have managed to prepare a construction law suited to the requirements of a new millennium,”František Palko, state secretary of the Ministry of Transport, Construction and Regional Development said when introducing the draft bill. “The current law, which is almost 40 years old, will finally be replaced by a piece of legislation that reflects a long and demanding discussion among experts from all relevant spheres,” he added.

The ambitious draft bill addresses effectiveness, professionalism and order in construction-related decision-making processes.

Palko specified that the law would make the approval process for new constructions more effective. The ministry promises faster and less bureaucratic proceedings for smaller constructions by both private individuals and businesses, thanks to a new categorisation of construction. For example, proceedings pertaining to the location and construction of simple structures and family homes up to 300 square metres in size will be merged into one, thereby reducing red tape as well as the time it takes the applicant to acquire the final permit. In the case of businesses, proceedings related to the location of structures will be merged with the environmental impact assessment, which should shorten the entire process by 100 days.

This will, according to Palko, require each town and municipality to create a master plan for guiding its development and growth. Currently, only municipalities with 2,000 inhabitants or more are required to have such a plan. The new law gives all municipalities until 2034 to draw up and approve their master plans. The aim of the ministry is to completely abolish approval proceedings for the location of constructions.

On the other hand, the new law will strengthen the rules for allowing and supervising construction of more complicated constructions, like tunnels, bridges and tall buildings.

To ensure a higher degree of professionalism at local construction offices, the ministry will require those applying for positions at these offices to list their experience. Palko believes that many of the problems and poor decisions that arise at construction offices are caused by a low level of professionalism among their staff.

The draft will further address the issue of illegal constructions, which Palko describes as “current folklore” in Slovakia.

“Simply, after the new law is effective, illegal constructions will disappear from the earth’s surface as far as Slovakia is mentioned,” Palko said. “We are ending with the institute of ex post facto legalisation [of illegal constructions].”

In Slovakia, it is common for illegal, unlicensed buildings to gain legal status during their construction or after they are completed, which is done to skip the lengthy and complicated permit approval process. To solve this problem, it is necessary to simplify and shorten this process.

The ministry believes that the new law solves the issue of illegal constructions as it will apply to all illegally constructed buildings built so far, and it will prevent the construction of new illegal structures. Palko specified that according to the new measure, which will be introduced in several phases, failing to comply with the order to remove an illegal construction will constitute a crime punishable by a fine or even imprisonment.

The current legislation is seen as toothless in this respect, as it does not provide a way to effectively enforce the removal of illegal constructions.

The new legislation, for example, requires local construction offices to halt illegal construction, while the current law simply allows them to do so. Moreover, local construction offices can order suppliers to halt deliveries of water and energy to the construction site, and could be fined up to €30,000 for failing to do so.

Once the law becomes effective there will be a one-year transition period, during which illegal constructions can be made legal.

 

Next steps

 

The wording of the submitted draft bill is a result of discussions between the ministry and experts from municipalities, as well as professional organisations. Municipalities and experts still have some objections. For example, the Association of Towns and Villages of Slovakia (ZMOS) questions the obligation of all municipalities to adopt a master plan, and the Association of Construction Entrepreneurs of Slovakia requires more precise specification of measures related to solving the issue of illegal constructions. Both organisations see the following legislative proceeding as sufficient to solve these issues.

The ministry is now offering the draft bill for general discussion, and experts and citizens can submit comments on the law until September 15. It will then be submitted for interdepartmental review, after which it will be discussed by the cabinet before going to parliament for approval. If adopted, the law will become effective as of July 1, 2014.

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