Permits and Processes
Obtaining a building permit
To build just about any type of dwelling in Sweden a building permit is required. All building permits are reviewed, issued, or denied by the building permit department of the local municipality. Depending on the size of a project the building permit department will require certain documents in order properly review the application. Once all of these documents have been submitted the application will be processed by a building official.
Most permit issuing departments require the following documents before reviewing an application for a single family dwelling:
- Floorplans drawn to scale
- Elevations drawn to scale
- Cross sections drawn to scale
- Site plan drawn directly on appropriate map
- Copy of your project controls managers certification
Once the application is complete a building official will examine the submitted documents to see if the proposed construction fulfils national building codes and legislation. If the application is approved and a building permit is issued then a technical consultation will be required, this is often held at the municipality together with the project controls manager and building official. More technical documents will have to be submitted before this meeting such as engineering plans and a preliminary energy declaration among other things.
If the consultation is successful then starting clearance will be issued. A building permit means that the building is allowed to be built, while a starting clearance enables the withholder to commence construction. Unless otherwise specified, a building permit typically requires one to commence construction within two years of issuance and finish construction within five years of issuance. A building permit will expire if a starting clearance is not issued within two years of the original building permit being issued.
When construction is finished the municipality must be notified in order for the developer to be granted final clearance. Final clearance is granted after a final consultation in person with a municipal building inspector and project controls manager. Being issued with a final clearance allows the owner of the to building use it.
Pre-clearance is similar to being granted a building permit “in advance”. Applying for one resembles applying for a building permit but with fewer application documents. It is not a permit, but is a document issued by the building permit department that states it is possible to construct a building of a certain size and character within a defined area or property. Being in possession of a valid pre-clearance will greatly expedite the permit application process for a building that conforms to the terms of the pre-clearance.
Some aspects which are taken into consideration by building officials when issuing a pre-clearance are the environmental impact, cultural impact, and how well the proposed building fits in with the surrounding landscape. This is of most use when building outside of a detailed development plan. Having pre-clearance for a type of building is advantageous to those developers that wish to minimize drafting and planning costs if a permit application is denied. An applicant will need to describe the size, shape, general placement, appearance, and use of the building they wish to receive pre-clearance for, however they wont be required to submit detailed architectural plans unlike a building permit application.
Detailed development plan
Land that has been incorporated into a detailed development is land that has been sectioned into zones based on how the municipality wishes that land to be developed. This is often referred to as zoning in other countries. Detailed development plans are typically presented in the form of a color coded map. Within these development plans there will be rules that regulate building characteristics such as the maximum height, maximum size, and even what type of colors are allowed to be used. Applying for building permits on properties that are part of a detailed development typically requires much less processing than on properties outside of development plans.
Building outside of a detailed development however will require a decision by the local building committee. This process is less straightforward and often much more time consuming. Detailed development plans are based on investigations and feasibility studies which ensure that an area can be developed in a responsible manner. Permit applications outside of a development plan, where no investigations have been conducted, may require the building official to send referrals to different government bodies for approval concerning environmental considerations, archeologically sensitive areas, and even land too close to military bases.
A common complaint about the Swedish building permit process is that it is time consuming. This is due in part to the fact that any concerned party is allowed to formally appeal a permitting decision. Legally, the definition of a concerned party is fairly open to interpretation, which can be problematic since permits are not considered legally binding until four weeks after their issuance. During these four weeks any concerned party can choose to appeal the decision. While the number of concerned parties for building a townhouse may be few, larger residential and infrastructure projects can be halted by lengthy appeal processes.
Citations and fines
Should one commence construction before being granted a permit or starting clearance then citations will be issued. Depending on the municipality these are typically proportionate to the scale of the project. Even if the citations are paid, one will need to apply for a retroactive permit. If a permit is not possible, the municipality can decide to forcefully demolish a construction.
Shoreland protection law
In Sweden you cannot build anything within 100m of the shoreline, in some areas even 300m. This is pursuant to a 1975 law that protects the Swedish coastline. It is possible to apply for an exemption to this law to this law in certain cases. There are six reasons for exemption as outlined in Chapter 7 §18c of the Swedish Environmental Code.
- The property is already being used in such a way that makes protecting the shoreline unnecessary.
- The property is separated from the shoreline by a railway track, road, development, or business.
- The property has a facility on it that needs to be in close proximity to the shoreline in order to function.
- Exemption is needed in order to expand the operations of a facility that requires close proximity to the shoreline.
- The property needs to be used in such a way that is in the interest of the local population.
- The property needs to be used for other reasons (exemptions for this point are given under very special circumstances)
This essentially means that those waterfront buildings that exist today were either built before 1975, or are within zones where exemptions to the shoreline protection law have already been made. Certain detailed development plans specify areas where the shoreland protection law does not apply.
Key terms and their Swedish translation
Byggnadsinspektör : a municipal employee that conducts inspections to see if permits and applicable building codes are being followed.
Byggherre : a person or company that executes a construction project or allows one to be performed on their behalf.
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