Change is a constant, and usually completely natural in the world of legislation. Serbia's recent amendments to the Planning and Construction Act are most definitely no different. These amendments were voted upon and adopted on 26 July 2023 and came into force on 4 August 2023.
They bring forth a series of transformative measures aimed at streamlining land ownership, fostering sustainable development, and promoting green construction practices. Of particular note are the provisions allowing the free-of-charge conversion of the right of use over land into ownership, as well as the focus on implementing environmentally friendly construction practices.
Unlocking land ownership: the free-of-charge conversion
One of the most influential changes to the Planning and Construction Act are the provisions envisaging that the right of use of construction land may be converted into right of ownership at no cost. Likewise, owners of buildings (legally) constructed on state-owned construction land, where long-term lease agreements were concluded for periods longer than 50 years, may be granted the right of ownership over such construction land if the long-term lease has been paid in full for the complete period of the lease. It is to be noted however that with these amendments coming into force, the previously effective Land Rights Conversion Act has been automatically put out of force.
Challenges may emerge in the process of implementing this conversion. Ensuring transparency, preventing misuse, and safeguarding the rights of vulnerable communities will be critical considerations for complete, rightful and intended implementation of the amendments. Clear guidelines and effective oversight mechanisms will be necessary to prevent speculative behaviour and maintain a balanced distribution of land rights.
Green construction implementation: paving the way for a sustainable future
Parallel to the changes in land ownership, the amended Planning and Construction Act places a strong emphasis on implementing green construction.
On this note, in particular, amendments introduce (inter alia) a provision that one of the principles for arrangement and use of land/space is the "improvement and encouragement of electromobility", while electromobility is defined as a special means of ecological transport using of electrical and/or hybrid vehicles.
The amendments also introduce a comprehensive framework for incorporating green practices in construction projects. This includes encouraging energy-efficient designs, using sustainable materials, and integrating renewable energy sources. Furthermore, these amendments acknowledge the importance of preserving green spaces within urban areas. They mandate the allocation of certain space within developments for parks, recreational facilities, and gardens.
Challenges and opportunities
While the amendments and supplements to the Planning and Construction Act bring numerous benefits, some challenges remain:
- Implementation and enforcement: The effectiveness of these
changes hinges on robust implementation and consistent enforcement.
Adequate resources, training, and oversight are essential to ensure
that the provisions translate into tangible results on the
- Balancing competing interests: Urban development often involves
reconciling conflicting interests, such as economic growth versus
environmental conservation. Striking the right balance requires
careful deliberation and stakeholder engagement.
- Capacity building: Local authorities and regulatory bodies may need capacity-building efforts to adapt to the new regulations effectively. This includes training personnel and updating administrative processes to align with the revised act.
While the amendments to the Planning and Construction Act are a sign of progress in the right direction, they are not without challenges. Implementing such transformative changes will require careful planning, efficient administration, and public awareness campaigns. Authorities must ensure that the conversion process remains equitable and transparent, preventing any monopolisation of land ownership. Our expectation is that the journey towards seamless implementation and optimised utilisation of these amendments will demand concerted efforts on the part of administrative bodies, legal practitioners, and stakeholders at large, bearing in mind that the ramifications of these amendments are not confined solely to legal frameworks but extend into the broader societal tapestry.
The introduction of the free-of-charge conversion of the right of use into ownership empowers land users potentially boosts economic growth, and makes strides to promote real estate market vibrancy. Concurrently, the emphasis on green construction practices underscores Serbia's commitment to environmental stewardship, energy efficiency, and urban beautification.
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