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Digital services in the new Czech Building Act

Shortly before Christmas, the interdepartmental reflection process regarding the articulated version of the bill for a new Czech Building Act came to a close. The primary objective behind this recodification is to speed up and debloat the procedures within building permission proceedings. One of the tools chosen to achieve this goal is known as digital services.

The draft bill anticipates the introduction of several digital services, i.e., specifically, a builder's portal, a national geoportal for zoning and land-use planning, records of administrative acts, records of electronic documentation, an information system for building project ID numbers, and an information system run by the building office. Related to all these services is the new idea that any filings made under the Building Act should by default be digital. Alternatively, they may be made on paper on an 'intelligent form', to be posted in a way that allows for remote access (similar to the forms used today for entries in public registers of natural and legal persons). Digital filing should not only save time, but also the expenses associated with what often amounts to substantial paperwork in the form of apparatuses of schedules to be filed along with the form.

These digital filings should become possible thanks to a 'builder's portal', which will moreover provide data from the records on transportation and technical infrastructure. These records should e.g. contain information on where exactly technical infrastructure is placed, and how it is being protected (e.g. by a perimeter within which building activities are restricted). The builder's portal should also provide access to documents on the geoportal (i.e., in the area of zoning and area-use planning) or to records of previous administrative decisions – i.e., in essence, it should provide comprehensive electronic access to the entire administrative case file under the Building Rules. Further, the portal is supposed to include a watchdog feature that monitors changes in the zoning documentation and notifies stakeholders of the fact that administrative proceedings have been commenced.

The main area of concern covered by the geoportal is the provision of comprehensive digital services in zoning and land-use planning to the general public – for free. This will take primarily the form of presenting the results of zoning and planning activities (i.e., the zoning plans). The geoportal data is expected to be integrated with other apps and systems, and should therefore facilitate not only the activities of zoning authorities but also project planning for building projects and decision-making on the ground. The intended outcome of the planned digitalization is a comprehensive, active system which not only ought to substantially simplify the steps which must be taken by stakeholders wishing to implement a building project but also make the work of officials faster and more efficient and move e-government in the Czech Republic to a new level. It remains to be seen whether this system – which looks great on paper – can successfully be put into practice, and how long it will take.