Zoning permits and environmental impact assessments

Before the building authorities grant approval for any investment project, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) must be completed. In the Czech Republic, local authorities issue detailed zoning plans and conditions for land usage for the purpose of facilitating and regulating construction and development. These plans are developed with the aim of protecting a given area’s value and character, as well as contributing favourably to the overall environment. 

The amendment of the Building Act implemented in January 2018 allows authorities to issue joint EIA, zoning and building procedures, including the possibility of issuing a joint ruling for such procedures, in order to accelerate the permitting process.

Zoning permits define the conditions for obtaining building permits and allow commencement of the initial phases, such as creating service lines, testing soil layers and preparing the land itself.  A zoning permit is valid for two years and is a prerequisite for obtaining a building permit. The statutory period for completing the zoning-permit procedure is 60 to 75 days excluding the time needed for an environmental impact assessment (EIA), if required. The overall time for obtaining the permit is usually nine to 12 months.

Prior to submitting a zoning-permit application, an EIA is required. There are two options:

  • a fact-finding process with no need for a full EIA, which takes between 6-8 weeks;
  • a full EIA may require four or five months.

Environmental impact assessment

In general, the purpose of an EIA is to implement a strategy of sustainable development and to allow officials and all concerned citizens to understand the likely consequences of a development plan. The EIA process is ultimately a compromise between the economic interests of an investor and the priorities of the environment and public health.

An EIA looks into the impact of traffic, pollution, noise, utilities shortages, rain water, wastewater connections, change of agricultural land for industrial use, top-soil removal, landscape disturbance, etc.

The four steps in the EIA process in the Czech Republic:

  1. Development of EIA documentation
    • The investor appoints a specialised company or individual to prepare documentation identifying the environmental and public-health impacts of the project.
  2. Fact-finding procedure
    • The competent authorities the assess project documentation and conclude whether a project can be approved without any further evaluation or if further evaluation is required, often referred to as a “full EIA”.
    • If the first case, the process of obtaining a planning permit can follow. If not, the investor has the option to change the project so that it is in compliance and repeat the fact-finding procedure or decide to continue with a full EIA.
  3. Full EIA
    • A full EIA primarily involves the obligation to provide additional details of the environmental and health impacts of the project, including an expert’s independent opinion, as well as a public hearing on the project.
  4. Consequences
    • The environmental impact assessment process is completed and the project is either rejected or accepted. In the case of an unfavourable statement, the investor may submit a revised project that may, for example, use more eco-friendly technology or relocate the project to a more suitable location.

Practical advice

To reduce delays, we recommend investing in the planning stage and providing as much detail as possible regarding the environmental impacts of your project. Well-prepared documentation is generally better accepted both by the authorities and by the affected public.

The better the communication from the investor, the better the chance that your EIA process will run smoothly and quickly.  Discussing the project in advance with the authorities before submitting the documentation may allow comments to be incorporated into the documentation in advance, thus preventing months of delay.

David Chládek
Country Head