Construction in road protection zones: what will be allowed from 2021?

By: Kristina Matvejenkaitė

What construction is allowed and what is not allowed in a road protection zone? This question has so far given rise to more new discussions rather than answers. In particular, there has been a lack of clarity regarding the construction in rural areas included in road protection zones, where, unlike in urban territories, no specific rules or exceptions were provided for the construction of residential, administrative, commercial buildings or any other buildings not related to transport activities.

The adoption of the new Law on Special Land Use Conditions, which entered into force at the beginning of this year, has shown that the latter problem remains unsolved. This law provided that, in general, the construction of any buildings that are not related to the servicing of vehicles and road users is prohibited in all road protection zones (irrespective of whether they fall within cities, towns, villages, or other territories). The law did not provide for any exceptions to this rule, which meant that not only in villages but also even in cities, the construction of buildings unrelated to transport activity became impossible in a road protection zone.

It is obvious that this year the existing situation has led to many problems and misunderstandings in practice. Fortunately, the situation is likely to change from the beginning of next year, i.e. from 1 January 2021 when the amendment to the new law, which has already been adopted specifically for the new regulation of restrictions on construction work in road protection zones, enters into force.

What specific changes await the construction in road protection zones next year?

  • First, in cities, towns and compactly built-up territories of villages it will be possible to build new and/or reconstruct existing buildings, even if the external dimensions of the building increase during the reconstruction. However, such construction work will require the approval of (coordination with) the owner or manager of the road;
  • In other territories (i.e. the territories not falling within cities, towns and compactly built-up rural areas), the prohibition to build and/or reconstruct (if the external dimensions of the building increase during the reconstruction) buildings that do not involve the servicing of road vehicles and road users will remain in force;
  • In other territories (i.e. the territories not falling within cities, towns and compactly built-up rural areas) it will be possible to reconstruct existing buildings not related to the servicing of road vehicles and road users if the external dimensions of the building are not increased;

It is worth bearing in mind that the owner or manager of a road has the right to refuse to approve the construction or reconstruction (where the external dimensions are increased) of buildings in road protection zones. Possible grounds for refusal are specifically listed in the law including, for example, cases where construction work will interfere with the development of roads, endanger the environment or the property, life or health of persons, etc.

It should also be noted that the term ‘compactly built-up territory’ is not explained wider in the mentioned law. But a broader explanation can be found in another legal act, i.e. in the Law on Territorial Planning. Therefore, for the purpose of identifying in practice which rural area is and which is not to be considered a compactly built-up territory, supposedly it will be necessary to apply the concept contained in the Law on Territorial Planning, which is defined as follows: ‘compactly built-up territory shall mean a built-up territory exceeding five hectares (land occupied by buildings, courtyards, yards and other land used for direct operation of construction works) with the density of built-up area being not less than 20 percent. Of course, additional efforts will be needed to find out whether a particularly rural area meets all the listed criteria for a compactly built-up territory.

It is also important to emphasize that the changes discussed above, which will be applicable from the new year onwards, will not concern and will not govern already launched projects, even from the new year. Previous projects will have to be completed under the current procedures, i.e. in accordance with legal regulation, which will be valid until 1 January 2021 and which, as already mentioned above, significantly restricts the possibilities of constructing buildings in road protection zones.

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Kristina Matvejenkaitė

Kristina Matvejenkaitė

Senior Associate / Lithuania