Councils have 200 days to decide planning permissions
In a bid to speed up Portugal’s notoriously slow and bureaucratic planning permission procedures, municipal councils have been given 200 days to decide whether to issue licences or not.
The time allowance will be between 120 and 200 days depending on the gross construction area involved. Decisions on projects up to 300m2 must be made within 120 working days. For projects over 300m2 and 2,200m2 or involving listed status buildings, that deadline climbs to 150-200 working days.
The periods count from the time that a planning permission request is handed in to a council. If the council does not meet the stipulated deadline, then a tacit agreement has been reached that the project can advance even though the council has not given a decision either way.
This is one of the measures of a government law aimed at speeding up and simplifying urban planning licensing which was published on Monday in the circular Díario da República.
The legislation is one of the key planks of the PS socialist government’s ‘More Housing’ programme. An initial policy was presented by the government in May 2023, but has now been updated to a final version.
The underlying principle to the initial policy remains in place, with the idea to simplify and speed up planning permission and remove obstacles, and the tacit approval measure is part of that. The periods have now been reduced, but in the past were never met and some developers had to wait years to get a decision which only added costs onto the final project.
However, the tacit approval for projects that have not been decided within the stipulated deadlines could also throw up problems.
“It implies a significant risk when it comes to evaluating the viability of projects and their financing and could give rise to an increase in litigation cases”, says Eduardo Gonçalves Rodrigues, a lawyer and architect from Sérvulo who spoke to business daily Negócios.
That’s because municipal director plans have indeterminate concepts that only a council can interpret, and this interpretation may not align with what the developer is doing. The Council could later cancel the ‘tacit approval’ and this means risks for the financiers that may be less willing to stump up up-front funding for a project in future if they lose money as a result.