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Big changes in Phuket land zoning rules

July 19, 2011

Lawyers, property developers and land owners on the island have been poring over new regulations on zoning in Phuket, which came into force officially this month.

The Ministerial Regulation Regarding City Planning of Phuket Province (2011) supersedes the previous regulations brought out six years ago, and tightens up a number of aspects of land development on the island.

The new Ministerial Regulation (MR) divides Phuket Province into 16 different land-use zones, each with a carefully defined list of how the land can be used.

It also outlines what percentage of the land can be used for those purposes, and how much must be left as “open space”.

Law company Duensing Kippen, which specialises in land and tax legislation, explained to The Phuket News that there are five points people need to bear in mind about the new MR:

– Zones may not be entirely contiguous; in some cases they are scattered about the island in separate sub-zones.

– Whereas the 2005 regulations covered only the main island, the new MR also covers the entire province, including Phuket’s coastal waters and the offshore islands. Phuket Province extends to just a few metres off-shore to the north of the island, about 10 kilometres offshore to the east, about 20 kilometres to the west, and around 55 kilometres to the south.

– The amount of land zoned principally for “residential” purposes has increased slightly, but so have areas reserved for “rural and agricultural” use, “forestry reservation” and “environmental preservation” purposes.

– The MR includes three new zones that were not defined in the 2005 regulations. These are: “open spaces for environment protection, tourism and fisheries”; “open spaces for recreation and coastline environment protection”; and “natural resources and coastline environment conservation” areas. In these zones, no other use is allowed.

– The biggest change is that the 2005 regulations specified that a certain percentage of a plot of land in most zones could be used for the stated purpose. Now, with the new MR, that percentage relates to the entire zone, not plots within the zone or sub-zone.

Thus, theoretically, if one were the first to develop a plot of land in a particular zone or sub-zone (where such development is permitted), one could develop the entire plot for “other permitted uses”.

On the other hand, if one were to buy land in a particular zone with the intention of developing housing on it, and the maximum percentage of that zone or sub-zone is already built out, then no permit to build for other uses will be granted.

For example, under the 2005 rules in the “Forestry Reservation” zone (a zone which covers a very significant part of Phuket), the land was to be used primarily for agriculture or related activities, for residence, for tourism, for government offices or for public utilities.

However, with some qualifications, up to 50 per cent of each land plot in that zone could be used for “other permissible purposes.” (These purposes vary from zone to zone.)

Under the 2011 MR, land in the “Forestry Reservation” zone is still earmarked for the same purposes, but no more than 5 per cent of all the land in any sub-zone of this zone may be used for any other lawful purpose.

If the 5 per cent in a sub-zone is already being used for other purposes, then that’s it – no more land in that sub-zone may be used for such purposes.

Duensing Kippen commented, “Obviously this new way of limiting the use of land for other than what it is primarily zoned for means that such other use in each sub-zone will be on “first come first served” basis.

“As it opens the possibility to use most, if not all, of one’s land for other purposes, this may create a rush to obtain building permission for these other uses in some areas.”

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