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Overview

The Czech Republic is situated in central Europe and consists of three historical provinces: Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia. Most borders follow mountain ranges; only southern Moravia and part of Silesia form part of wider basins of the Danube and Oder. The country borders the German states of Bavaria and Saxony, Poland, Slovakia and the Austrian states of Upper and Lower Austria. 
People are mostly Czech, with a small minority of Poles in the eastern part of Silesia, while a Slovak and Vietnamese population is spread throughout the country. Czech is the official language.
Since the split with Slovakia in 1993, the Czech Republic has been a unitary state with a two-chambered parliament. The president is the formal head of state. The territorial governance of the country consists of 14 regions (NUTS 3) and more than 6000 communities/municipalities. The country joined the EU in 2004, together with Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Cyprus and Malta.  
The country’s GDP per capita at purchasing power parity is $37,370 and $22,850 at nominal value (2018). According to Allianz A.G., in 2018 the country was an MWC (mean wealth country), ranking 26th in net financial assets. The country experienced a 4.5% growth in GDP in 2017 but in 2020 the GDP declined by 5.6% due to the pandemic. The 2020 unemployment rate was 2.7%. The 2018 poverty rate was 9.6%, the second lowest of OECD members. The industrial sector accounts for 37.5% of the economy, with the automotive sector being the dominant industry. Services account for 60% and agriculture for 2.5% of the economy. The country’s largest trading partner for both exports and imports is Germany in particular and the EU overall.  

General information

Name of country Czech Republic
Capital, population of the capital (2020) Praha, 1.3 million
Surface area 78,866 km²
Total population (2020) 10.7 million
Population density (2020) 134 inhabitants/km²
Population growth rate (average 2010–2020) 0.17%
Degree of urbanisation (2019) 60.9% (municipalities > 5000 inhabitants)
Human development index (2018) 0.891; rank: 26
GDP (2018) USD 245.2 billion
GDP per capita (2018) USD 23,079
GDP growth (2018) 3%
Unemployment rate (May 2020) 3.6%
Land use (2019) 34% forest and scrubland 2.1% inland waters 53.3% agricultural land 10.7% built-up land
Sectoral structure (2020) 59.8% services and administration 37.5% industry and construction 2.7% agriculture and forestry

Administrative structure and system of governance

The Czech Republic is a unitary state. The formal head of the state is the president who (since 2013) is directly elected by citizens for a five-year term. The two chambers of parliament hold legislative powers: the Chamber of Deputies with 200 members elected for a four-year term and the Senate with 81 members elected for a six-year term. 
The state executive consists of the government, which is composed of ministries (17 ministries currently). The government is nominated by the president but is responsible to the Chamber of Deputies; spatial planning as well as regional development are responsibilities of the Ministry of Regional Development (Ministerstvo místního rozvoje, MMR). 
The country is subdivided into 14 regions (kraj, NUTS 3), which are political units with elected councils that in turn elect the hejtman (governor). The regions are also territorial units for the executive powers of the state administration. 
The local level of governance consists of more than 6000 municipalities/communities (often very small) with their own elected councils which in turn elect their own mayors. With respect to the economy of public services, a model of delegated powers is applied under which some aspects of state administration are executed by the staff of local administration of self-government. 
For the execution of state powers, there are about 200 administrative micro-regions (obce s rozšířenou působností, ORP – municipalities with delegated powers), where local agencies of state administration, such as spatial planning departments and building offices, are seated. 
The capital city of Prague is one of those regions and also the biggest municipality. 
In order to coordinate and implement support for economic, social and territorial cohesion, NUTS 2 ‘cohesion regions’ councils and committees have been set up by merging some NUTS 3 regions. The cohesion regions’ councils are nominated from the elected regional (NUTS 3) councillors.  

The formal power is evenly distributed among the central, regional and local tier of governance following the subsidiarity principle, but financially, the regional and local budgets are dependent on the distribution of state taxes as regions and municipalities cannot collect their own taxes. The allocation (in fact, redistribution) of tax revenues among the tiers of governance is set by law. The formula by which individual tax revenues are distributed among regions as well as large cities and small municipalities is the subject of permanent conflict between the local, regional and central governments, as the available resources, properties and needs are very different in small communities and in big cities. Even after the allocation of tax revenue in regional and local budgets, regions and municipalities are heavily dependent on subsidies, particularly for their investment activities. 
On the regional and local level, the Czech Republic applies a mixed model of administration. This means that regional and local offices have the competence to perform certain activities independently, for which they are responsible to the regional or local councils, while their competence for other activities is delegated by the state, whereby the officers are responsible to the higher tier of executive power (local offices to the relevant regional office and regional offices to the relevant ministry). 

Administrative Structure Czech Republic

Administrative Structure of Czech Republic

Planning system Czech Republic

Planning system of Czech Republic

System of powers Czech Republic

System of powers Czech Republic

Spatial planning system

The first national Act on Territorial Planning in Czechoslovakia was enacted in 1948. It distinguished regional, local and detailed local tiers of planning. The territorial planning system was considered and declared a tool for controlled development to promote economic growth and industrialisation in all parts of the country. To achieve a rational settlement structure, central place theory was introduced as the leading concept on the regional level, which under the conditions of a non-market economy resulted in the centralisation of all investments in central places and the suppression of small villages. The emphasis on the development of heavy industry, energy generation and the growth of agricultural production made some regions of the country the most polluted in Europe in the 1970s and 1980s. The critical air pollution in Northern Bohemia was one of the first issues that led to the public protests in 1989 which resulted in the Velvet Revolution. On the local level, plans were tailored to the systematic prefabricated constructions that made it possible to produce huge volumes of housing units in multifamily blocks of flats.  
Attempts to reform planning towards greater openness date back to the period of the Prague Spring in 1968. They resulted in the 1976 Planning and Building Act, which enabled citizens to raise comments on proposed plans, but the reality of participation was very different owing to the Soviet occupation of the country. 
The position of planning after the political change towards democracy and a market economy in the 1990s was weakened as spatial planning was often considered a part of the previous central general control by the state. The abolition of regions and the introduction of local self-government in municipalities in 1990 gave municipalities major rights and responsibilities for planning. The split of the country in 1993 did not immediately affect planning law or practice. 
The comprehensive privatisation in the 1990s made planners private entrepreneurs who bid for planning jobs, while municipalities, which were made responsible for local planning, had very limited resources and lacked the institutional/human capacity for this. Increasingly, planning became driven by the interests of businesses, while public initiatives were often treated as troublemakers. During the social and economic transformation driven by neo-liberal ideas, planning became an arena of many conflicts among various interest groups; mitigating these conflicts and finding a sound compromise has proven to be difficult.  
The present Planning and Building Act (2006) defines the levels, activities, actors, instruments, responsibilities and powers of spatial/physical planning. Planning materials and documents are prepared by the planning departments of the relevant regional or local offices as a delegated competence, i.e. under the control of the state administration, but the regional and local planning documents are approved by the relevant council. 
The central government sets national priorities and development objectives in the Spatial Development Policy (Politika územního rozvoje, PÚR), which is binding for all lower levels of spatial planning. This document is approved by the government and is subject to review every four years. 
On the regional level, regional councils approve the Principles of Spatial Development (Zásady územního rozvoje, ZÚR) as a binding document, which specifies development areas and axes, indicates the hierarchy of centres and defines areas and corridors for infrastructure projects of national or regional importance. 
On the local level, most communities/municipalities develop Local Territorial (land-use) Plans (územní plán, ÚP) and some of them also detailed Zoning/Regulation Plans (regulační plán, RP) for some local areas. The respective local councils approve those plans. The structure of planning instruments are subject to a robust hierarchy, whereby the plans on the lower territorial level must comply with all the requirements of the plans of a higher tier. (If the Principles of Spatial Development adopt a new regulation that applies for the municipality, the municipality must amend the local plan to comply with the higher planning tier).   
Spatial (‘territorial’) planning deals only with physical aspects of development while strategic plans for cities, towns and regions (parallel to the spatial plans) deal mostly with economic and social change. Unlike spatial/territorial planning, which is described and regulated in detail by the Planning and Building Act, there is no legal definition of strategic planning. The connection between spatial and strategic plans and also the budgeting of public bodies is rather loose, which is a matter of concern in some governmental documents like the ‘Strategic Framework Czech Republic 2030’. 
For environmental aspects (nature, soil, forest, minerals, air, noise protection) as well as for the conservation of monuments, water management and infrastructures, spatial planning has legal partners defined by the applicable law in state agencies, mostly at the relevant departments of regional offices which are responsible for these particular issues of special public interest. No plan can be approved without the prior consent of these partners; in the case of conflicting opinions, the negotiations are organised by the planning officer (pořizovatel). This sometimes makes environmental and resource protection seem somehow external and even controversial to spatial/territorial planning, which is in practice rather development-oriented. 
All proposals for plans must be made available (online and otherwise) to citizens during the consultation process. In the statutory planning process, all citizens may comment on a proposed plan at the stage of the Planning Brief as well as at the public hearing or before the final approval process by the regional/local council. Owners of property affected by the planned change may raise objections with the planning officer. After a plan is approved by the respective regional/local council, a person who insists that their rights may be damaged may sue the plan at the Administrative Court.

The case of developing a plan for Prague

The current Local Plan of the City of Prague dates back to 1999. Having been criticised for obsolescence, preparations for the elaboration of a new Local Plan began in 2007. The then City Council promised in their Programme Statement that a new plan would be completed by 2010. In 2009 a draft of the plan, including a strategic environmental assessment (SEA), was submitted to the public. The immense number of comments and sheer criticism of the proposed plan caused further work on the plan to come to a virtual halt. The new city representatives elected in the 2011 local elections decided in 2012 to definitively end the work on the plan and to instead develop a new ‘Metropolitan Plan for the Capital City of Prague’ (however, despite the designation ‘metropolitan’ the plan does not cover the entire metropolitan area; rather, it is limited by the city jurisdiction). The declared goal of the new Metropolitan Plan was to stop the expansion of the city into the countryside and to ensure sufficient quality public facilities. 
In order to develop the Metropolitan Plan, the City Development Department that had existed hitherto was transformed in 2013 into the Institute of City Planning, which manifested a major turnaround from the then current practice, whereby the Metropolitan Planning Office was charged with developing the plan. The Department of the Development of the City of Prague was tasked with developing the Metropolitan Plan; unlike the Institute of City Planning, which is an agency established by the Capital of Prague and responsible to the council, responsibility for the development (pořizování) of the plan is a delegated competence. Having the status of Planning and Building Authority, the Department ensures the legality of the entire process and that it complies with the approved terms of reference, parent documentation and laws. It was also charged with managing the consultation process and public hearings as well as processing all comments and objections from the authorities concerned, the city districts and the public.
The Prague City Council approved the approach to developing the new Metropolitan Plan in September 2013. The elaboration of the plan took six years and was completed in 2018. It was then put out for consultation to gather the views of affected bodies, i.e. authorities concerned with special public interests (e.g. nature conservation, the conservation of monuments, water management, mineral resources, transport networks, energy), and comments by the public and objections of property owners. Citizens submitted a total of 14,500 comments on the proposal. A number of key comments were also raised by the city councils, experts from the Association for Urban Planning, and some civic initiatives.
The Department of the Development of the City of Prague evaluated all the comments received and submitted a proposal for how they should be taken on board to the City Council. The plan is currently being revised as instructed by the City Council and will subsequently again be put out for consultation for views and comments.
The consultation phase of the draft Metropolitan Plan should be completed by 2022, because according to the Building Act, the new Prague Spatial Plan must come into force no later than 1 January 2023. If this is not achieved by then, the building authorities will follow the superordinate spatial planning documentation, meaning the Principles of Spatial Development.

Important stakeholders

Institution/stakeholder/authorities Special interest/competencies/administrative area
Ministry of Regional Development The Ministry is the central administrative authority for town and country planning and
a) undertakes the state supervision of town and country planning,
b) responsible for the Spatial Development Policy
and the planning materials required for that,
c) keeps records of the planning activities,
d) performs other activities pursuant to the Act
Ministry of Environment The Ministry is responsible for the SEA process
Regional Councils Regional Councils issue the Development Principles
Regional Offices Regional Offices prepare analytical materials for regional planning and the Development Principles
Municipalities with extended powers Planning Offices in the municipalities have extended powers to conduct planning studies and prepare analytical materials for local planning as well as local plans
Building Offices Building Offices issue planning permission, planning consents and building permits
Municipalities/communities Local councils determine the commissioning of the Local Plan and Regulatory Plan and issue both plans
Affected bodies They protect specific public interests (nature protection, water management, public health, the conservation of monuments, agriculture, forestry, transport infrastructure, utilities, etc.) in the plan development process
Czech Chamber of Architects The Czech Chamber of Architects authorises planners and takes responsibility for the quality of the plan development process

Fact sheets

Attachments

  • Spatial development and regional policy system in Czech Republic

  • Procedures and participants of plan elaboration

  • Czech Republic – NUTS 2 and NUTS 3

  • Czech Republic – ORPs administration areas of municipalities with extended powers

  • Development Policy of the Czech Republic – Development areas and development axes

  • Principles of Spatial Development (ZÚR) of the South Moravian Region – Spatial layout of the region

  • Loket Local Plan part of the main drawing

List of references

Česká republika (2000): Zákon č. 129/2000 Sb., o krajích  [Act on Regions]. Available at: https://www.zakonyprolidi.cz/cs/2000-129 (Accessed 19 March 2019)

Česká republika (2000): Zákon č. 128/2000 Sb., o krajích  [Act on Communities]. Available at: https://www.zakonyprolidi.cz/cs/2000-128 (Accessed 19 March 2019)

Česká republika (2006): Zákon č. 183/2006 Sb., o územním plánování a stavebním řádu (stavební zákon) [Planning and Building Act]. Available from: https://www.zakonyprolidi.cz/cs/2006-183 (Accessed 19 March 2019)

Česká republika (2017): Strategický rámec Česká republika 2030 [Strategic Framework Czech Republic 0230]. Available at: https://www.mzp.cz/C1257458002F0DC7/cz/ceska_republika_2030/$FILE/OUR_Strategicky_ramec_20181015.pdf.002.002.pdf (Accessed 19 March 2019)

Ministerstvo místního rozvoje (2020): Politika územního rozvoje (PÚR) [Spatial Development Policy]. Available at: https://www.mmr.cz/getmedia/4f3be369-24df-4975-81cb-c8fb91b4e65c/PUR_CR-Uplne-zneni-zavazne-od-11_9_2020.pdf.aspx?ext=.pdf (Accessed 19 March 2019)

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