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Alert: The New Way of Urban Planning

24 May 2023

A government bill amending the Law on Spatial Planning and Development and certain other laws is currently being processed in the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament. The bill, the first reading of which was completed in April, provides for covering the territory of municipalities with General Plans. These will set land use rules that are binding both in the process of enacting local zoning plans and in issuing zoning decisions.

The draft also introduces new institutions such as an integrated investment plan and urban planning agreement. It also provides for the introduction of a public urban planning register and numerous changes to planning procedures.

General Plan

The bill envisages replacing the provisions of the zoning study with a much more thoroughly regulated General Plan. The General Plan will be enacted for the area of the entire municipality. The General Plan will be an act of local law on a par with local zoning plans. It will define planning zones (e.g., a multifunctional zone with multifamily or single-family housing, or a service zone) and municipal urban planning standards in a given area. It will also be able to define areas for development additions.

The General Plan will not be the basis for issuing a building permit. On its basis, however, it will be possible to obtain a zoning decision. New local zoning plans will have to be consistent with the General Plan. Thus, the General Plan will shape land development, the precise conditions of which will be determined by local zoning plans or zoning decisions on development conditions.

The change of land use only in the General Plan will not be the basis for the calculation of a planning fee or the award of compensation.

New regulations on zoning decisions

Obtaining a zoning decision will be necessary for an investment requiring a building permit in an area where there is no local zoning plan. It should be emphasized here that obtaining a zoning decision will be allowed only in the "development addition area" established in the general plan. An exception to this is the change of development other than the construction of a building or the reconstruction, superstructure and expansion of existing facilities, as well as the implementation of production investments in areas designated for this purpose in old local zoning plans that have expired. Under transitional provisions, until the end of 2025, it will be possible to issue zoning decisions if a municipality has not adopted a General Plan. The term of the zoning decision is to be for 5 years from the date the decision became final. This is intended to eliminate the practice of obtaining zoning decisions for speculative purposes.

Integrated Investment Plan

The draft provides for a new planning tool, i.e. the Integrated Investment Plan (Polish: "Zintegrowany Plan Inwestycyjny") ("ZPI"). It will gradually replace the resolution on determining the location of a housing project. Such a solution is intended to respond to the problems encountered with this form of regulating housing investment. ZPIs, which will be adopted at the request of the investor, are to have the rank of a local law act. The investor will be required to attach a draft local zoning plan to the application for ZPIP adoption. The draft amendment also regulates the scope of such an application.

The procedure for adopting the ZPI is similar to the procedure for adopting an ordinary local zoning plan, but includes an element of negotiation with the investor. The investment, provided for in the ZPI, will be implemented on the basis of an urban planning agreement, the conclusion of which is one of the elements of the procedure. Among other things, the institution of ZPI is intended to normalize the principles of bearing the costs of the planning procedure by the investor, while maintaining transparent rules of procedure.

Urban register

The bill provides for the introduction of an urban planning registry, which will collect information and data on urban planning and development. The registry will be maintained in online system. Access to the register is to be free of charge. The register will include, among other things, resolutions to proceed with the preparation of planning acts; applications to prepare or amend local zoning plans, draft planning acts with justification, if its preparation is required, issued zoning decisions and applications for their issuance. Detailed rules for keeping the register are to be determined by implementing regulations.

Public participation

The draft includes an additional chapter on public participation in the creation of planning acts. The current regulations only mention holding public discussions. The draft includes principles of this participation, i.e. openness and ensuring active participation of stakeholders. The draft regulates forms of consultation such as collection of comments, open meetings, expert panels or workshops, surveys, interviews or consultation points. Consultations shall be conducted for at least 28 days. A report summarizing the course of public consultations, including a list of submitted comments with a proposal for their consideration, shall be prepared before the draft spatial planning act is submitted to the Municipal Council.

The draft now awaits further stages of legislative work. The final shape of the amendment is therefore still unknown.

Further Reading