Earlier this year the Ministry of Development and Technology unveiled a bill amending the Act on Urban Planning and Land Use. The legislation is currently in the consultation phase. If enacted, it will represent a major overhaul of the existing regulatory framework for planning, which has been in place for nearly two decades. In what follows we summarise the main points of the reform.

The bill introduces a new instrument of urban planning, the master plan, which each commune will be required to adopt for its entire territory. The master plan will have the status of a local legal act. All local plans and decisions on land use conditions will have to conform to the master plan.

At the heart of the master plan will be a description of the commune’s spatial-functional structure. It will divide the commune’s territory into planning districts and specify, for each district, the types of uses allowed in it. In this way, a clear relationship will be established between the contents of the master plan and specific determinations made at the level of local plans and decisions on land use conditions.

The idea is that the master plan will be a brief and concise document, containing a limited set of stipulations, thus enabling its swift adoption by communes.

In their master plans, communes will be able to designate “areas for complementary construction”, in which new constructions that fill gaps in existing built-up spaces can be allowed on the basis of decisions on land use conditions. In all other areas, new constructions will only be allowed on the basis of local plans (including so-called integrated investment plans – see below).

In another important change, the reform repeals provisions authorising communes to adopt Studies of Land Use Conditions and Directions, which set out in general terms their land use policies. In the new regulatory framework, a commune’s land use policy will be laid down in its development strategy. The strategy’s broad directives will be translated into concrete norms of the master plan, which, in turn, will inform specific determinations at the level of local plans and decisions on land use conditions.

The draft bill also introduces a special kind of local plan, called an integrated investment plan (ZPI), that can be prepared for large-scale undertakings that require coordination in terms of the necessary technical, transport, or social infrastructure. A commune will be able to adopt a ZPI at the request of the project owner, after negotiating and concluding “an urban planning agreement” with the project owner setting forth the principles and conditions of the project’s implementation and the obligations of both sides. ZPIs will be adopted following a simplified planning process consisting of interagency agreements, opinion gathering and public consultations. Thanks to ZPI, a wider range of projects will be able to be built under this special procedure, including housing, retail, industrial, and farming production projects.

Other changes relate to decisions on land use conditions. As already noted, they will be issued only for projects in areas designated for complementary construction in the master plan, and will have to conform to the master plan in terms of allowed uses and urban planning indicators and parameters. Second, the bill caps the area to be examined when issuing decisions on land use conditions for certain uses, notably for housing and for services (but with the exception of retail trade), at three times the width of the frontage zone of the land, but not less than 50 metres and not more than 200 metres. Third, it stipulates that decisions on land use conditions expire three years after becoming valid. So the project owner will have three years to obtain a building permit or commence the project.

The bill also establishes the Urban Planning Register, an integrated electronic database that will contain, among other things, all documents issued during planning processes, reports from public consultations, administrative decisions, or regulatory rulings. It will be accessible for free for all interested parties.

The legislation is to come into effect on 1 January 2023, with the exception of the provisions relating to the Register of Urban Planning and to further digitisation of planning acts, which will become effective three years later, on 1 January 2026.

By Anna Kowalczyk-Pogorzelska, Attorney at law

Originally published in PMR Construction Insight: Poland, No. 7 (256), July 2022