The Croatian Spatial Planning and Construction Act

Šime Unić
The Croatian Spatial Planning and Construction Act

Reading legal documents is nobody’s favorite pastime, especially if they’re in the middle of applying for a location or building permit. This is why we’ve decided to make things at least a bit simpler for you and summarize what the Croatian legislature has to say on these and other questions pertaining to spatial planning and construction.  

We're referring to the Croatian Spatial Planning and Construction Act (available only in Croatian, unfortunately), on the basis of which we’ll continue to explain the basics of spatial planning, the differences between a location permit and a permit for the conversion and use of an existing building. Finally, we’ll say a few things about planning out a piece of construction land before you begin with the actual construction.

What Are the Goals of Spatial Planning?

In brief, the goals of spatial planning (in Croatia) are setting a framework and regulatory system for the use, protection, and management of space in the Republic of Croatia in order to optimize living conditions and protect ecological fishing areas.

The Croatian Spatial Planning Act is based on the assumption that rationalized and planned construction form the foundation of social and economic development of a country. And who doesn’t want to live in an organized, orderly country with diverse buildings, and one with a clean environment at that?

The main goals of spatial planning, based on art. 6 of the Croatian Spatial Planning and Construction Act are:

  1. Balanced spatial development which is aligned with the country's economic, social and environmental starting points;
  2. Spatial sustainability in relation to the rational use and preservation of spatial capacity on land, sea and underwater, for the purpose of effective protection of space;
  3. Connecting the territory of the country with European spatial planning systems;
  4. Nurturing and developing regional spatial characteristics;
  5. A mutually harmonized and complementary distribution of various human activities and activities in space for the purpose of the functional and harmonious development of the community alongside the protection of the integral values of space;
  6. Reasonable use and protection of natural resources, nature conservation, environmental protection, and prevention of pollution risks;
  7. Protecting cultural goods and values;
  8. Well-organized distribution and arrangement of construction land;
  9. Quality and humane development of urban and rural settlements, the development of green infrastructure and a safe, healthy, socially-functional living and working environment;
  10. The integrity of valuable coastal ecosystems and the quality of the sea for swimming and recreation;
  11. An adequate transport system, especially public transport;
  12. Supply, functional accessibility, and use of services and buildings for the needs of different population groups, especially children, the elderly, and people with reduced abilities and mobility;
  13. High quality, culture, and beauty of spatial and architectural design;
  14. Creating a built space which is high in value, with respect for the specifics of individual units and the development of green infrastructure while respecting the natural and urban landscape and cultural heritage, and especially the arrangement of catering and tourist areas on the coast and mainland, while protecting a narrower coastal zone from construction;
  15. Spatial conditions for economic development;
  16. National security and defense of the country, as well as protection against natural and other disasters. 

A spatial plan is crucial for the realization of these goals of spatial planning because quality infrastructure is created building by building, based on a spatial plan and its consistent implementation.

Creating a Spatial Plan

A spatial plan defines building conditions and is in itself a precondition of the construction process. Each plan consists of provisions for the implementation of the spatial plan, a graphic part (cartographic representations) and an explanation.

Spatial plans can be adopted at the state, regional or local level. The Croatian Spatial Planning and Construction Act (art. 60) explains in greater detail what each of these levels encompasses. Each plan has its own holder and liable leader, which varies depending on the level of the plan. The leader is appointed by the presiding Institute of Spatial Planning (at the state, county or city level) and be any authorized architect (independent or one that works at the Institute).

The architect is first in charge of drafting the spatial plan proposal and the draft of the final spatial plan proposal, and is responsible for everything being carried out in accordance with legal regulations.

At the local level, anyone can initiate the development, amendment, and supplementation of spatial plans. Spatial plans are evaluated at least once a year. If the plan fits into the spatial plans “superior” to it, and is financially and otherwise justified, the Minister or the representative body of the regional / local government unit shall make a decision on the development of the spatial plan.

The process then becomes somewhat more complex and is handled by the holder and the competent public body. It comes down to the submission of various requests and arriving at decisions. Expert decisions of the spatial plan are made and a mandatory public hearing is held during which the proposal of the spatial plan is presented. This is a crucial moment because the spatial plan is then released to the public and summarized both textually and graphically. The public hearing is then published in the appropriate official gazette (in the daily press, the Official Gazette, the website of the Ministry of Construction, Spatial Planning and State Property, or other appropriate locations).

After the public discussion has been held, possible amendments are adopted and a draft of the final proposal of the spatial plan is prepared by an expert developer (usually an architect) in cooperation with the holder.

After this, it is necessary to obtain the opinion of the Institute of Spatial Planning of the relevant county, or rather the Ministry, depending on the level of spatial planning in question. The spatial plan is then adopted by the competent body (art. 109 of the Act) and the Decision on the adoption of the spatial plan is published.

This Decision is the foundational document on which the implementation of the spatial plan is based. It contains several parts (art. 111 of the Act), including: cartographic representations, the name of the expert that created the plan, and provisions for the plan’s implementation.

It is only after the necessary acts for the implementation of the spatial plan are established, in addition to obtaining a building permit, that it’s possible to continue with any spatial interventions. These acts include repurposing and use permits for the building(s), decisions on determining the building plot, subdivision confirmations, and location permits.

Creating a Spatial Plan

For What Interventions Is a Location Permit Issued?

The Croatian Spatial Planning and Construction Act (art. 125) clearly states for which spaces location permits are issued. These include:

  • Most types of exploitation fields; 
  • Mining facilities and installations for the exploitation of hydrocarbons or geothermal water for the purposes of generating energy;
  • Designating new military locations and buildings;
  • Spatial interventions that are not considered construction;
  • Staged and / or phased construction of a building;
  • Complex spatial interventions;
  • Construction on land with unresolved property relations. 

Conditions for Issuing a Location Permit

Location permits are issued at the request of the party after submitting the necessary documentation electronically (using the ePermits system) or physically in the competent administrative body's office.

The main prerequisite for issuing a location permit is the development of a “preliminary” that contains drawings and documents which provide basic design, functional, and technical spatial solutions. They also show the location of buildings on the plot and determine the basic starting points which are important to ensure the achievement of fundamental building requirements. The concept design is prepared by the planner and must contain a statement from them confirming that the preliminary has been prepared in accordance with the spatial plan and governing laws.

A complete list of other necessary documents and explanations of the same are available on the official website of the Ministry of Construction, Spatial Planning and State Property. One of the preconditions for issuing a location permit is that all the necessary documentation is prepared, so it’s important you pay attention to this.

Repurposing and Use Permits

It’s necessary to differentiate this permit from a location permit because it is issued for existing buildings or its independent building units on which no further construction works are required (which would otherwise require a building permit).

In this case, the owner submits a request with proof of ownership, evidence of the existing building (including the previously mentioned main building plan and photos of the building’s current condition), acts for the use of the building confirming that the building could and can be used (which may include a previously obtained location permit), the consent of the governing authority for repurposing the building, and a decision on the plan's environmental adequacy.

This permit is generally granted if it is determined that the new purpose is still in accordance with the spatial plan and other locational conditions.

The competent body then conducts an inspection and, if all the conditions are met, issues a permit for the repurposing and use of the building.

repurposing and use permits

Managing Construction Land

Every piece of construction land should be planned out so that it’s possible to build, reconstruct and use buildings in accordance with their spatial plan.

This includes: 

  • Obtaining projects and other documentation;
  • Resolving property relations;
  • Obtaining the acts necessary for carrying out works for the purpose of managing the land (as a reminder, this includes the location permit);
  • Construction / reconstruction of infrastructure and buildings for public and social purposes;
  • Terrain repairs (drainage, leveling, land insurance, etc.). 

If you are the owner or perhaps want to be the owner of construction land, houses or other real estate in Croatia, it is important to be well acquainted with the various permits you will need for the management of land or an existing building; This is why we want to direct you to some more primary sources that include the Croatian Law on Spatial Planning and other relevant laws and regulations in the field of spatial planning.

Latest articles