Poland amends Planning and Land Development Act bringing crucial changes to investment and construction


On 7 July 2023, the Polish parliament adopted an amendment to the Planning and Land Development Act. The act has been sent for the President’s signature and will be promulgated in the Journal of Laws with the changes taking effect within 30 days of promulgation and the most significant changes coming into force on 1 January 2026.

Below we discuss the current legal status and essential changes introduced by the amendments.

What is the situation now?

Currently, the majority of investments can be conducted on the basis of zoning decisions or the local development plan. In practice, a local development plan is often not available for a particular area (in 2020 plans covered only 30% of Poland). Therefore, an investor who wants to carry out certain projects needs a decision on land development conditions. This applies particularly to greenfield investments, including renewable energy sources installations (RES). Obtaining a decision on land development conditions (or the existence of a local development plan) is primarily done to obtain a building permit. In the case of RES installations, this is also done to connect to the network.

Local development plans are municipal council resolutions adopted through a lengthy special procedure. The option of approving plans at the request of third parties (i.e. investors) or contributing to their costs is rare and confined to a few exceptional situations.

Local development plans need to be consistent with the study of conditions and directions of the land development plan, which is an internal municipal act that outlines policy, including the general principles of spatial development. This means that the adoption of the plan requires the prior adoption of the study. There is no such requirement for a zoning decision, which can be issued separately from the existence of the study and its content.

Zoning decisions are valid indefinitely and only expire in specific cases (e.g. when another applicant obtains a decision for a certain area or a development plan has been adopted that contains different arrangements to the decision on land development).

What will the amendment look like?

The amendment introduces several changes regarding the above.

General plans

A general plan will replace the study, which will provide a new basis for issuing a zoning decision and for creating development plans. The general plan, however, will be an act of local law, dividing the municipal area into planning spheres (i.e. industrial, services, infrastructure) or municipal urban standards (i.e. parameters of shaping development). These spheres will decide whether and what investments will be permissible in a certain area. These parameters will be considered when issuing the zoning decision and adopting the local development plan. Decisions on land development will be issued only for areas indicated in the general plan (i.e. identified as a development supplement area).

General plans should come into force on 1 January 2026 at the latest (they should first be adopted by the municipality in a statutory procedure). When the plan comes into force, the study will expire. This means that studies will be valid until the end of 2025 at the latest. Existing local plans remain in effect until new ones are enacted. They may be amended under the current regulations. After studies have expired, local plans will require the prior entry into force of the general plan.

Restrictions on the location of RES installations

Free-standing RES installations that are being planned include: I-III class agricultural land, forest lands, IV class agricultural lands, with an installed capacity of more than 150 kV or used for energy generation, installations with an installed capacity of more than 1000 kV (regardless of land class) will be located solely on the basis of the local plan. This means that most RES installations will require the adoption of a local plan. This change primarily concerns photovoltaic installations. (For wind installations, locations based on a local plan have been a requirement since 2016). This means that investments in most RES installations will not be possible until a local plan has been adopted. It will be possible to issue decisions on land development conditions for RES on the basis of the current regulations by the date of the expiry of the study (by the end of 2025 at the latest).

Timeliness of decision on land development

The amendment limits the validity of decisions on land development. Decisions will expire after five years from the day the decision becomes final. In practice, this means that it will be necessary to obtain a building permit (and any replacement permits) by this date. This deadline will apply to decisions that will become final by the end of 2025.

Proceedings on zoning decisions initiated but not terminated by a final decision before the date of entry into force of the amendment are to be conducted on the basis of the current regulations. The same applies to proceedings initiated after the date of entry into force of the amendment, but before the expiration of the relevant study.

Facilitation in the RES location during the transition period

The amendment provides that from the date of entry into force until the date of entry into force of the general plan for a given municipality, the adoption of a local plan allowing the location of RES installations will be possible regardless of the content of the study and the obligation of the municipal council to state that the plan does not violate the arrangement of the study will be excluded. Currently, RES investors often face doubts since regulations require that the location of RES installations be specified in the study. In any case, the principle also applies that the adoption of a local plan requires its compatibility with the study. The amendment introduces exceptions to this rule, which will facilitate (i.e. shorten) the permitting process during the transition period.

Integrated Investment Plan

The amendment introduces a new instrument: the integrated investment plan. This will be a special type of local plan, adopted at the request and expense of the investor. The integrated investment plan will be an act of local law adopted by the municipality. Adoption will be preceded by the conclusion of the urbanist agreement, specifying general provisions regarding a main investment by a planned by investor (i.e. a RES installation) and a complementary investment (i.e. a section of a municipal road). Adoption of the investment plan will result in the repeal of the local plan in a given area. Moreover, this plan must be in compliance with the general plan.

For more information on this amendment and land, planning and investment in Poland, contact your CMS client partner or local CMS experts.