"Urbanistic Simplex" in Portugal - Do you know what it is?

In the context of the SIMPLEX program, which simplifies administrative activity, a reform and simplification of urban licensing was approved.

News at https://24.sapo.pt.

On January 8th, the new decree-law no. 10/2024 was published, which reforms and streamlines licensing within the scope of urban planning and spatial planning, through the continuous elimination of unnecessary licenses, authorizations and administrative acts, in a "zero licensing" logic.

Regarding licensing, the new decree-law eliminates the “need to obtain urban planning licenses, creating, for this purpose, new cases of prior communication, exemption and exemption from prior control”. Works “that increase the number of floors” are therefore exempt from licensing, as long as they do not alter the facade of the buildings, or constructions “in an area with a subdivision operation, detailed plan or execution unit with an urban design”.

According to this new diploma, the old regime of prior communication “was little used due to the fears of interested parties”, to the detriment of the more time-consuming and resource-consuming license procedure, to a large extent contrary to the public interest that was sought to be satisfied.

"These circumstances hindered the possibility of taking advantage of opportunities for simplification and cost reduction, so the public interest requires the creation of conditions for them to be effectively taken advantage of, which, in this case, involves the obligation to follow this procedure and the impossibility of opting for others are more serious, more time-consuming and more consuming of public resources", he also says.

What was approved with this Simplex?

Reduction of cases subject to license:

  • Elimination of the need to obtain urban planning licenses or carry out prior communications, identifying new cases of exemption or exemption from prior control by municipalities;

  • Approval of a tacit approval regime for construction licenses, which allows individuals to carry out the intended project if decisions have not been adopted within the due deadlines;

  • Elimination of the construction license, which is replaced by the receipt of payment of fees due;

  • Elimination of authorization for use when there was work subject to prior control, replacing this authorization with a mere delivery of documents relating to the project, which cannot be approved or assessed;

  • Adoption of a prior communication with a period of 20 days, when there is a change of use without work subject to prior control, considering the request for authorization of use to be accepted if the municipality does not respond within that period.

Simplification of administrative processes:

  • There is now a delegation of competence to the directors of municipal services in new situations, whether to grant construction licenses, thus avoiding the concentration of competences in the municipal council, the mayor of the municipal council or the councilor with the respective responsibility;

  • Deadlines start from the date the request is submitted by the interested party;

  • Deadlines are only suspended if the individual takes more than 10 days to respond to requests for information, additional documents or other requests from the Public Administration;

  • The Public Administration can only request additional information, documents or make other requests during the procedure once;

  • There is no longer an opinion from the entity competent in matters of cultural heritage in relation to properties located in zones of protection of immovable property in the process of classification or immovable property classified as being of national interest or public interest, when: it involves works inside properties (as long as there is no impact on the subsoil, or changes relating to tiles, stucco, stonework, carpentry, carvings or metalwork), exterior conservation works, installation of advertising signs, signage, awnings, terraces and street furniture.

New platform to standardize processes in local authorities:

  • There is a provision for an Electronic Platform for Urban Planning Procedures, mandatory from January 5, 2026, which will allow the submission of requests online, consult the status of processes and deadlines, receive electronic notifications, obtain certificates of exemption from urban planning procedures, standardize procedures and documents required by municipalities, avoiding the multiplication of different practices and procedures.

Clarification of the municipality’s powers:

  • The municipality is only responsible for verifying compliance with municipal or inter-municipal planning plans in the territory, preventive measures, priority urban development areas, priority construction areas, administrative easements, public utility restrictions, proposed use, legal and regulatory standards relating to the exterior appearance and urban and landscape insertion of buildings and the sufficiency of infrastructure;

  • Municipalities do not evaluate or approve specialty projects, which are sent for mere information gathering and archiving, accompanied by terms of responsibility issued by competent technicians stating that the projects were carried out accordingly.

Elimination of requirements from the General Regulation for Urban Buildings (RGEU):

  • End of mandatory bidets in bathrooms;

  • Possibility of having a shower in the bathroom instead of a bathtub;

  • Use of solutions for kitchens such as kitchenettes or walk through kitchens;

  • The RGEU standards of other diplomas are revoked;

  • The revocation of the RGEU is approved with effect from June 1, 2026;

Occupation of public space:

  • Elimination of the need to obtain a specific license to occupy public space;

  • Elimination of disproportionate and excessive requirements regarding mailboxes, as well as the obligation for municipalities to verify compliance with them;

  • Prohibition of requiring police forces to carry out the work;

Simplification of buying and selling the property:

  • Elimination of display or proof of existence of the housing technical file and authorization for use;

  • Simplification of the process of reclassifying rustic land into urban land, for industrial, storage or logistics purposes or housing at controlled costs;

  • Streamlining the procedures for approving urbanization plans and detailed plans, by eliminating the monitoring of their preparation by the Regional Coordination and Development Committees and eliminating the consultation phase.

News at https://24.sapo.pt.