REALWorld Law

Planning / zoning

Controls on specific new construction and refurbishment

Does public law control whether a landowner may construct a new building or refurbish an existing building on its land?

Angola

Angola

Yes, planning permission will normally be required before any new building is erected or to refurbish an existing building. Where there are no urban plans approved, supplementary or contractual instruments provides if landowner may construct a new building or refurbish an existing building.

Australia

Australia

There are a number of different public law controls which impose requirements in relation to new buildings or refurbishments to existing buildings. These include development controls under the relevant planning instrument, heritage controls, native vegetation controls and in some cases, environmental controls.

Belgium

Belgium

Public law does control the construction of new buildings or the refurbishment of an existing building of a landowner on its land, by zoning plans and permits.

In the Flanders Region, the Flemish Public Planning Code forbids the construction of a new building without a single environmental permit for building. This permit is granted most of the time by the municipal council of the area in which the real estate is situated, by application made by the landowner primarily. The municipal council investigates the compatibility of the type of building with the type of zone (eg rural or industrial, habitation) that is indicated by the zoning plans. Zoning plans are plans that define the “destination” and the applicable building policies (eg height of buildings, materials, distance to the street) of the zone, that is covered by them. The planning requirements in zoning plans vary in their level of detail.

If a building is constructed without the necessary permit, the landowner risks criminal prosecution and possibly an order to demolish the building. For refurbishment works, a permit is not always necessary. A building permit is only necessary when these works are not qualified as “normal maintenance works”, for example, works regarding “constructive elements” of the building are not maintenance works.

In the Brussels Capital Region, the Brussels Code regarding public planning provides for a similar regime. A building permit, granted by the competent municipal council, is primarily always necessary for the construction of new buildings. If a building is constructed without the necessary permit, the landowner risks criminal prosecution and possibly an order to demolish the building. For refurbishment works, a building permit is only required when the works are not qualified as "maintenance works". This is a concept that is specified by case law.

In the Walloon Region, the Code for Territorial Development provides for a very similar regime to the Brussels Capital Region. The rules regarding the application for a permit and the sanction regime and refurbishment works are practically the same. Maintenance works generally only require a building permit when they affect the structure of the building, its volume or “architectural aspects” of the building.

Bosnia-Herzegovina

Bosnia-Herzegovina

The construction or refurbishment of any building must be approved by the relevant authority and must be in accordance with planning/zoning regulations.

Canada

Canada

Yes, plans for new construction or refurbishment of an existing building must typically be reviewed and approved by the applicable local government. In addition to development controls under the relevant land use planning instruments, local governments have an array of other legal tools at their disposal that they may use to control site development. These include: building by-laws, land use covenants entered into between a landowner and a local government or utility provider, heritage controls, environmental controls as well as compliance with local zoning and subdivision by-laws.

Depending upon the scope, scale and location of the project, other local, provincial and federal agencies may need to be consulted as well.

China

China

Yes, all new building construction is subject to planning approval from the local construction bureau. Refurbishments may also require planning approval depending on the nature of the proposed refurbishment and the requirements of the local construction bureau.

Croatia

Croatia

Urban plans determine the structure and use of specific areas and provide regulations for the protection and development of the country, counties, municipalities and cities. For the construction as well as for the refurbishment of an existing building, the investor has to obtain a building permit which has to be in accordance with the urban plans.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic

Yes, construction and refurbishment on a scale above a certain threshold may only be carried out following the grant of planning permission (in the case of a new building or the substantial modification of an existing building) or of a building permission or building consent, which must comply with the relevant zoning permission or approval or regulatory plan. 

Planning permission is issued as part of the process of spatial planning. There are certain types of planning permission, including decisions as to the location of the relevant building, decisions on subdivision and land consolidation, decisions regarding protection zones and decisions or alterations to the impact of the building on the use of the area.

Instead of planning permission the building authority may grant planning consent for specific proposals provided that the project is to be situated within a developed area or an area with development potential, that conditions within the area do not materially alter, and that the proposals do not introduce new requirements for public and technical infrastructure.

Building permission, on the other hand, is issued after planning permission and, in it, the building authority lays down the conditions for the development of the structure and, if necessary, for its use.

Notification to the building authority is sufficient for building "simple" structures (eg the residential and leisure facilities with one underground floor to a maximum depth of 3m and up to two above-ground floors and an attic). If the notification complies with all statutory requirements, the building authority will issue building consent. There is also a list of works, such as small buildings and landscape alterations, that are not subject to building permission or notification. Where an environmental impact assessment of the project has been issued, the provisions relating to notifications do not apply.

Denmark

Denmark

Denmark is divided into zones: urban zones, holiday home zones and rural zones. Properties throughout Denmark are primarily reserved for use according to the zone they are situated in.

In urban zones, local plans typically lay down various restrictions regarding the types of business that are allowed in an area, the size of the buildings / plot ratio etc.

In rural zones, (a rural area which is not classified as an urban zone or a zone where most of the houses are holiday homes) the commercial use of a property which is typically allowed is that which relates to fishery, forestry or farming. As a principal rule, the construction of new buildings or a change in the use of buildings and land is prohibited if the buildings or the changed use are not deemed necessary for the commercial use of the property concerned. If the buildings are necessary for commercial use, the situation and details of the construction of the buildings may need the permission of the council of the local municipality. In addition to the building permit a special ‘rural area planning permission’ (planning permission) is required for a building project or a project on changed use of land in a rural area.

If a residential building not exceeding 500 square metres situated in a rural area is to be refurbished it is not necessary for the property owner to obtain a permission from the municipal authority.

France

France

Planning permission is normally required before any new building is erected. Refurbishment works on existing buildings can also require planning permission, particularly if:

  • additional internal space is created;
  • a change of use occurs; or
  • the frontage is modified, or a historical monument is renovated.
Germany

Germany

Yes, a building permit is normally required before any operational development or material change of use can occur. However, the Building Acts at state level contain specific lists of buildings and other types of construction that do not require a building permit (typically minor projects, such as the construction of fences, huts, etc.).

In order to reduce bureaucracy, the State Building Codes do not require a building permit for certain projects in specific circumstances, as long as they are in line with the applicable development plan.

The Building Land Mobilization Act (Baulandmobilisierungsgesetz) came into effect on 23 June 2021 and grants the competent building authorities the right to issue a building order against a landlord in case of urgent housing needs in tense residential markets (Sec. 175 (2), 176 (1) sentence 1 no. 3 of the Federal Building Code).

Furthermore. Sec. 9 (2d) of the Federal Building Code was amended and now authorizes the competent building authorities to define in their development plans on a sectoral level (sektoraler Bebauungsplan) in which areas residential properties and/or social housing must be built.

Hong Kong, SAR

Hong Kong, SAR

Yes, any kind of building construction, repair, demolition, alteration or addition must have written approval and consent from the Building Authority.

Minor works are often exempt from the approval and consent but are subject to the control under the Minor Works Control System. This facilitates minor works to be carried out lawfully by the public through simplified procedures.

Hungary

Hungary

Construction of a new commercial building and refurbishment of an existing commercial building are both, as a main rule, subject to the permit of the relevant building authority.

Depending on the technical contents of the works, in certain cases no permit is required, although a notification may need to be delivered to the building authority before commencing certain construction works.

Furthermore, depending on the local regulations applicable to the given locality or municipality, the specific opinion of the municipality's competent body may be required with regard to the conformity of the planned work's with the municipality's townscape requirements.

In the case of historic buildings subject to some form of heritage protection additional permits or consents may need to be obtained from the building authority for refurbishment works.

In the case of certain commercial buildings or units with a gross floor area of over 400 square meters a special licensing procedure applies (where the consent of additional authorities may also be required).

Ireland

Ireland

Yes, planning permission is normally required before any operational development or a material change of use can occur.

Under Section 32 of the 2000 Act, planning permission is required for:

  • all development of land unless it is exempted development; and
  • for the retention of any unauthorised development.

Unauthorised development is defined in Section 2 of that Act as the carrying out of unauthorised works or the making of any unauthorised use.

Section 3 of the 2000 Act states that development means “the carrying out of any works on, in, over or under land or the making of any material change in use of any structures or other land.”

Whether or not a particular activity is or is not development, and therefore requires planning permission is a matter of fact, to be determined primarily by the local planning authority or on appeal by the Planning Board (An Bord Pleanála).

Section 4 of the 2000 Act provides that certain classes of development shall be exempt from the requirement to obtain planning permission. Regulations made under the Planning and Development Act 2000 provide that the Minister can make regulations establishing certain classes of development as exempt from the requirement to obtain planning permission.

Italy

Italy

Yes, planning permission is normally required before any operational development or a material change of use can occur. Usually, such control is carried out by the municipality.

In certain cases, specific planning permission is not required because the works are automatically authorised as 'permitted development'.

Additionally, as well as a planning permission, permits may be necessary before a landowner can construct a new building or refurbish an existing building. These permits include building permits, demolition permits and consents for works to buildings of historic or architectural interest.

Japan

Japan

Yes, the BSA and the CPA control the new construction and refurbishment. Especially, except for a few types of construction specified in the BSA, a construction permit from the relevant local government or the designated inspection agency is required before any construction of a new building or any refurbishment of an existing building.

Apart from the construction permit under the BSA, the contractor must obtain a permission from the relevant local government under the CPA for certain large-scale construction works within the Urbanization Promotion Area.

Netherlands

Netherlands

Planning law permission is not required where the works or change of use are already authorized as ‘permitted development’ under the applicable zoning plan and (if applicable) other zoning rules and regulations. If this is not the case, planning permission might be required before any operational development or a material change of use can occur.

In addition to zoning permissibility as specified above, permits may be necessary before a landowner can construct a new building or refurbish an existing building. These permits include building permits, demolition permits and consents for works to buildings of historic or architectural interest. In the Netherlands, the majority of the necessary public consents are included in one integrated environmental permit.

Nigeria

Nigeria

Under Section 34 of the Lagos State Urban and Regional Planning and Development (Amendment) Law 2019, approval is required from the relevant planning permit authority for all building developments regardless that it is the construction of a new building or refurbishment of an existing building. The law provides that the Planning Permit Authority may with or without conditions to an applicant, grant in respect of the following:

  • use and development of land;
  • change in the use of land, seabed or structure or part of structure;
  • alteration of an approved development plan;
  • renovation of existing approved building structures; and
  • demolition of the existing structure by the owner/developer.
Norway

Norway

Yes, a permit will usually be required from the local planning and building authorities (municipality) before a new building can be erected or significant alterations can be made to or around an existing building.

Smaller projects are often exempt from the duty to apply, where these are carried out legally and pursuant to the Planning and Building Act, derivative regulations and the applicable zoning plan.

Also, some larger public constructions can be exempt from the application process due to other conclusive regulations and/or sufficiently detailed zoning plans.

Poland

Poland

Yes, except for a few types of development listed in the Building Law Act, planning permission is required before any operational development. Operational development is defined as building, as well as rebuilding, increasing the height of a building, renovation or demolition.

Under Polish law construction works may be commenced solely on the basis of a final decision issuing a building permit. Development must conform to the local zoning and development plan for the area where the property is situated.

Portugal

Portugal

Yes. The relevant urban plan will prescribe whether a landowner may construct a new building or refurbish an existing building, which urban parameters and conditions are applicable in the construction, alteration, extension and demolition, and also the uses permitted.

Romania

Romania

According to the Law 50/1991 regarding construction works, construction works may be performed only after a building permit is issued by the relevant authority. The first step to be taken in order to receive a building permit is the issue of a locality planning certificate. Thus, the locality planning certificate alone does not grant the right to perform construction works.

The locality planning certificate is a document issued for information purposes by the competent authorities and contains a summary of the territorial arrangement and zoning regulations applicable to a certain plot of land, the requirements that need to be complied with in relation to the plot of land, and the approvals necessary for obtaining the building permit. The locality planning certificate contains the rules and parameters that have to be followed and complied with by the designer of the building/construction and may not deviate from the requirements set forth by the urban planning documentation of the respective area.

According to the relevant legislation, when necessary due to the nature or specifics of the construction works or when derogation from the provisions of the existing urban planning documents is requested by the investor, the investor may be required by the competent authorities to prepare a zoning urban plan or a detailed urban plan. Only following the approval of the requested urban plans by the relevant authorities, the investor may prepare the other documents and apply for the issue of a building permit. For most investments, the preparation of the zoning urban plan requires the prior approval of the chief-architect involved in the investment, approval which then needs to be endorsed by the competent authorities.

By way of exception, the issue of building permits are not required for certain works, for example

  • Interior painting
  • Exterior painting, if the façade elements or the colour are not changed
  • Repairs to fencing, roofs or terraces, if the form or the materials are not changed

However, in case of historical monuments, including constructions located within the protected built areas or within the protection area of historical monuments, the conditions are more restrictive, and a building permit might be requested in respect of which, for ordinary construction works such building permit is not required.

Furthermore, in certain cases, specific urban planning documents are not required for the issue of the building permit.

Slovak Republic

Slovak Republic

Yes, it does by:

  1. Regulating the obligation of a builder to apply for a number of decisions issued by state authorities
  2. Governing proceedings that must be followed
Spain

Spain

Yes, a works permit is required before any development is carried out or any material change in a building is implemented. Depending on the type and extent of the works, different procedures will apply (eg minor works only require notification to the city council). 

Any new building or refurbishment has to respect the requirements included in the urban planning regulations applicable to the building. However, depending on the status of the land where the development is to be carried out (as for example in cases where the urban planning regulations do not detail certain planning aspects), a prior planning approval (eg 'partial plan' or 'special plan') is required. Such detailed regulation is a necessary requirement to grant the permits necessary for developing and using the plot and the buildings.

Sweden

Sweden

Yes, a planning permission (bygglov) is required for both new construction and refurbishment. There are, however, some minor exceptions to the requirement for permits, which in most cases apply to very minor construction works which do not affect the surrounding area.

Thailand

Thailand

Yes, the Building Control Act B.E. 2522 and City Planning Act B.E. 2518 and the relevant notifications control in both cases whether a developer or land owner may construct a new building or refurbish an existing building on the land.

United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi

United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi

Yes, a building permit is required from the relevant municipality before carrying out any new builds, significant alterations or change of use.

United Arab Emirates - Dubai

United Arab Emirates - Dubai

Once the affection plan and approvals are obtained, a building permit is required from Dubai Municipality, Trakhees or TECOM, before carrying out any new builds, significant alterations or change of use. In relation to new buildings, the affection plan states the usage of any plot of land in Dubai. Once this has been obtained and the required approvals have been granted, a building permit will be issued. If there are significant alternations to a building or a total change in use, permissions must be obtained from the relevant authorities.

As part of the review process for the issue of building or work permits, other statutory authorities (telephone, civil defence, road transport, electricity, water, and sewerage) are all required to provide approvals for the scheme. When the work is completed, a completion certificate must be obtained from the relevant authority. This certificate is based on a comparison of the drawings originally submitted to obtain the building permit (and any subsequent, approved revisions) and the actual structure which has been built.

As part of this process, the approval of other statutory authorities (telephone, civil defence etc) is required to demonstrate compliance of what has been built with the original approvals. Without a completion certificate, use and occupation of the building by end users is not permitted.

UK - England and Wales UK - England and Wales

UK - England and Wales

Yes, planning permission is normally required before any operational development or a material change of use can occur in respect of land and buildings. In certain cases specific planning permission is not required because the works or change of use are automatically authorized as “permitted development” under planning legislation, or a change of use falls within the same “use class”.

Large projects over certain size thresholds are Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects in England, which are subject to a development consent process with decisions made by the appropriate Secretary of State (ie a senior member of the government, a politician appointed by the Prime Minister).  Similarly Developments of National Significance in Wales are also subject to a specific consenting process.

UK - Scotland

UK - Scotland

Yes, planning permission is normally required before any operational development or a material change of use can occur. In certain cases, specific planning permission is not required because the works or change of use are automatically authorised as 'permitted development'.

Ukraine

Ukraine

The laws of Ukraine provide that almost any construction, reconstruction or capital repair (irrespective of the ownership to the underlying plot of land) should be carried out in accordance with the permissive procedure stipulated in the legislation. Depending on the complexity of the construction it may be necessary to develop and approve planning documentation, obtain a construction permit and commission the building (for technically complex projects) or notify on the commencement of construction works and declare the completion of construction (for technically simple projects).

In the light of the deregulation initiative being currently implemented in Ukraine, amendments to the Town Planning Law regarding decentralization of authority in the sphere of architectural and construction control have been implemented. Specifically, as from 1 September 2015 the architectural departments of the local municipal authorities are responsible for state architectural and construction control as well as the issuance of permissive documents with regard to construction projects located within the boundaries of developed settlements. The inspectors of the State Architectural and Construction Inspectorate issue the permissive documents for projects located outside developed settlements, as well as for the most technically complex projects (irrespective of where they are located), and are required to ensure compliance by the state and municipal authorities with town-planning legislation.

Refurbishment is usually governed by local regulations. Ukrainian law stipulates that certain refurbishment works (eg minor refurbishments) do not require any permissions or consents from the state or municipal authorities. The Ukrainian government is contemplating the abolition of all permits for refurbishment and minor reconstruction/re-planning works.

United States

United States

Yes, plans for new construction and most refurbishment must typically be reviewed and approved by local building department officials for compliance with local building and construction standards, as well as compliance with local zoning and subdivision ordinances. Depending upon the scope and scale of the project, other regional and state agencies may need to be consulted as well.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe

New construction would require the owner to go through the same approval process as with a new project, the Model Building By-laws adopted by the relevant local authority. Approval is necessary.