Issued late last year by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE), the comprehensive new regulations, comprising 42 pages in total, came into effect on Dec 15.
The quiet launch caught several projects off-guard, with Phuket office of Public Works and Town & Country Planning Department (DPT-Phuket) confirming that any applications for building permits already submitted but not yet approved on Dec 15 being rejected pending adjustments to comply with the new laws.
“If the permit had not yet been approved before the new regulations, the new regulations would apply, though it depends case to case,” DPT officer Rujikorn Serirom told The Phuket News.
Mr Rujikorn was limited in his explanations, however, as DPT-Phuket Chief Tawee Homhuan would answer formal questions from The Phuket News only by fax, which Mr Rujikorn compiled.
The formal faxed reply signed by Mr Tawee dodged the question of what happened with building permit applications caught out by the Dec 15 launch, saying only: “For clarity and order on this issue, please re-confirm with the following agencies:
1) Office of Natural Resources and Environment
2) Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning or
3) Board National Environment.”
However, Mr Tawee in his faxed reply welcomed the new regulations, saying, “Phuket is quickly expanding and developing business-wise. There is a need to protect natural areas and especially areas with slopes of more than 35%, which are mostly located in hill or forest areas.
“There is a sensitive and random risk of landslide during the rainy season or monsoon season on an annual basis… Therefore, it is important to improve the terms by not adjusting such areas for the construction of buildings.”
The new regulations are not retroactive, Mr Tawee confirmed.
“Old buildings (built) under the old laws will not need to be modified to match the new regulations. In fact, it is prohibited to modify by construction or renovate such buildings under this criteria,” he said, noting that it was illegal to remove buildings already built on dangerous slopes for safety reasons.
“Landlords, entrepreneurs or investors can still build a building or develop property in Phuket area as before under the terms and conditions of the original building laws, except for the following:
Buildings located in sloping areas of over 35% gradient will not be allowed to construct or adjust any existing construction area due to the area under Clause 8 (3) of the new law, except for if the building is a single or single-detached houses with the height not exceeding six meters, with green space of no less than 70% of the plots of land submitted for building permission, with a footprint of no more than 80-90 square metres.
Mr Tawee pointed out that the new regulations make it easier for developers to move ahead with smaller projects, while still holding large projects to the same standards already in place.
“According to old regulations, hotels, holiday resorts or condominium buildings that are over 50 metres from the nearest coastline with a total of 10 to 79 rooms, a total area of each building over 500 square meters but less than 4,000 square meters, must have an Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) ready for approval by the Office of Policy and Planning of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment before requesting a building permit,” he said.
“But under the new regulations, under Clause 15 (1) - (b), the above listed buildings, if with less than 30 rooms and each living space (floor area) of each building is not over 1,500 square meters, it is not necessary to prepare an IEE before applying for a building permit, thus saving capital and increasing flexibility and benefit to the land owner or small entrepreneur who wants to operate a hotel, condominium or apartment.
“This will reduce the time to be issued permits and allow the construction of the buildings to begin faster,” he noted.