The Private Sector and Land Management; a Perspective from the Czech Republic

Ivan Pešl, Czech Republic

F I G Commission 7, Annual Meeting 1996, Budapest, Hungary

One Day International Conference, 18 June 1996

"Land Management in the Process of Transition"

1. Introduction

The Czech Republic is a small country in Central Europe with 10,3 million of inhabitants. The total area of the country is 78.866 square kilometres. It comprises 31.426 sq. kilometres of arable land (40 %), 9.013 sq. kilometres of meadows and pastures (11 %), totally 42.798 sq. kilometres of agricultural land (54%), and 26.301 sq. kilometres of forests land (33 %). Statistically it means, that the portion of land per one inhabitant is 0,7632 ha of land (0,3041 ha arable, 0,4142 ha agriculture land, and 0,2546 ha forest land). Such relatively small rates of land per person themselves is historically the reason for a high regulation level in the sphere of the land management.

The general legislation framework concerning the land management is based on several principal laws, particularly on the law on preservation of nature and landscape, the law on preservation of agricultural land fund, the law on forests, and the law on land planning and building regulations. The care about the land management is traditionally entrusted to several ministries: the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Economy.

2. Historical Background

The development of the land management on the territory of the Czech Republic has always been heavily influenced by rich new age history and eventful political development of the country, especially during the past century. Due to the political development wide-ranging changes in ownership and use of land have occurred several times.

Immediately after the World War I. in 1919 the so called "first land reform" started. The land of individual owners exceeding 250 ha was confiscated, re-allotted and given to farmers. This land reform was interrupted when the most urgent demands of farmers for land were met and the land reform was never finished.

After the World War II in 1945 a wide-ranging nationalization process started. In the agricultural sphere it was the so called "second land reform". The land of individual owners exceeding 50 hectares and the land of enemies and traitors was confiscated, re-allotted and given to applicants. The process of re-allotment was interrupted by the communist coup in 1948 and was not finished.

On the contrary, after 1950 the process of full collectivization of agriculture started. The ownership rights of individuals in land were suppressed and their land was amalgamated into huge blocks of newly created cooperative farms, state farms and state forests. Individual ownership of land was not generally abolished, but the right of use of land was given to the state and to the cooperative farms. Under the pressure of the state many owners capitulated and they themselves gave their agricultural and forest land to the state. This process hit even the land cadastre and the land registry, which stopped to register the original ownership parcels amalgamated into huge blocks and such parcels of individuals were not even represented in maps and in written documentation. Since the „political approach" to collectivization created huge blocks of land without respecting real agricultural and economical aspects, a massive land consolidation process over the created huge blocks of land followed, with complex solution of production tasks, new field roads, irrigation and drainage, and landscape forming, but without respecting ownership relations to land.

Thus, during the historical development in this century the usual land management complexity was often limited and reduced into the changes of ownership (i.e. into amalgamation and division of parcels) without solution of other aspects of land consolidation (before 1948), or into the land consolidation without solution of ownership (after 1950).

Since the substantial and extensive changes in land ownership are always a long-term matters needed at least decades of political and economic stability, the history of the extensive and frequent changes in ownership to land during the past period of time in the Czech Republic is a history of unfinished tasks.

Political changes after 1989, caused first of all by the collapse of centrally planned economy, brought the long-term program of restoration law and order and massive privatization and restitution. The main goal of the privatization is to find a concrete and responsible owner instead of uncertain state. The restitution, when possible, seemed to be the most natural and simplest form of privatization. The giving back the landed property to the former owners (or to their successors in title), or to those who their ownership retained, but couldn’t use the land, is practically impossible without splitting formerly created huge blocks of land. Since returning the land in form of shares was not adopted from political reasons, the method of land consolidation remained as the only possible way how to return the land back. Unfortunately, the way legally and technically complicated, expensive, and extremely time-consuming.

3. Legislation Framework

The legislation concerning the land management issues is represented by packages of laws and regulations completing the following basic acts:

- Act No 114/1992 on Preservation of Nature and Landscape

- Act No 334/1992 on Preservation of Agriculture Land Fund

- Act No 289/1995 on Forests

- Act No 138/1973 on Waters

- Act No 50/1976 on Territorial Planning and on Building Code.

These laws were completed with some laws and regulations dealing with issues of privatization of land. They are first of all legal regulations connected with:

- Act No 229/1991 on Adjustment of Ownership Relations to Land and to otherAgriculture Property (Land Law)

- Act No 284/1991 on Land Consolidation and on Land Offices

The basic laws concerning the land management are usual acts, which preserve public interests, restrict rights of individuals, and determine the role of state in issues of the environment and of human activities within it.

The Land Law regulates in details the restitution of land and other agricultural property. The previous owners of agricultural land and forest land (or their successors in title) are given back their land, houses, agricultural buildings and other agricultural possessions. The law stipulates the conditions, objects and procedures of restitution. Besides, it solves the physical returning of land to owners who retained their ownership, but had not the right to use their own land. In many cases it is impossible to return the original land parcels (absence of access or land under buildings, communications, water flows, cemeteries, etc.) and compensation land is returned to the claimants. In such cases it is necessary to carry out the land consolidation before the returning. In fact, the Land Law represents the "third land reform" the extent of which has no parallel in the history of the country.

The Land Consolidation Act determines administration of land consolidation and creation and function of Land Offices. The land consolidation is defined as follows: "By land consolidation proprietary rights to real estate and correlated easement are settled, lots are spatially and functionally designed, united or divided, their accessibility is secured and their boundaries adjusted. Simultaneously conditions are made to rational farming, to protection and fertilization of the soil fund, to improvement of the landscape and raising its ecological stability on a higher level." The law determines in details the object, forms, participants and procedures of land consolidation. There are two forms of land consolidation: simple land consolidation (to create compact land units in shorter time) and complex land consolidation. While the simple consolidation often generally represents only setting out of boundaries of several original lots, the complex land consolidation solves usually whole cadastral unit and must respect the all requirements of production, environmental and landscape forming aspects. The costs of the land consolidation are paid by the state.

The system of Land Offices is formed by District Land Offices and the Central Land Office which is represented by the Ministry of Agriculture. The District Land Office is active according to the Land Law, decides on land consolidation and organizes its realization. It coordinates in cooperation with bodies of landscape planing continuity of projects of land consolidation to settlement structures and landscape planing. The Central Land Office is responsible for conception of land consolidation, coordination with territorial planning and state administration activities.

Detailed conditions and documentation of the land consolidation project are settled in the Regulation No 427/1991 on Requirements of Land Consolidation Projects. The difference in lots exchanged should not exceed 3% in price, 20% in distance and 10% in area.

It is necessary to mention that the land consolidation solves solely rural land, not urban areas. Nevertheless, the land consolidation project must guarantee the harmony of land consolidation with urban development plans, projects of ecological stability systems, and some other programs in the area (e.g. village restoration programs, programs of re-vitalization of waters, and special ecological programs).

4. The Restitution and Privatisation Process

While the privatization of other branches of economy is generally nearly finished, the privatization of agriculture is still in progress. In present time the main task of the District Land Offices is still to complete restitution according to the Land Law. The completion of restitution is the preliminary condition to starting with the complex land consolidation. Due to prolongation of deadline of restitution claims (several amendments to the Land Law) even the completion of restitution is a long-term matter. Besides, a bill on restitution of property of churches has been prepared and the sale of state land is under preparation.

At the end of 1995 about 80% of restitution (from 254 thousands of applicants) had been completed and more than 1 million of hectares had been returned. The Land Offices had completed 10.631 cases of simple land consolidation (178.096 hectares). The complex land consolidation had been started in 359 cases (152.721 hectares) and only 12 cases (2.819 hectares) had been completed. It’s clear that the privatization of agricultural land will be extremely long-term process. The restitution decision of the Land Office even without physical returning the land (still amalgamated into great blocks) enables the owners to lease the land to the current users of the whole block, which are usually transformed former co-operative farms. Thus the highest pressure on progress in land consolidation process is developed prevailingly from the side of minority of owners (original or new), who want to use their land themselves. Their demands are often, when possible, solved by the simple land consolidation.

While the structure of land possession is changing relatively slowly, the structure of agricultural land according to farming subjects has changed significantly, as the following table shows:





34 %

3 %


61 %

40 %


5 %

57 %

5. The Sources of Land Information

The key to the land management is accessible, updated and valid land information. The coordinated creation of information systems in different branches and levels of

administration is therefore of great importance. The State Information System and the Municipal Information Systems are the main sources of land information.

The State Information System (SIS) has been developing for past twenty years as a set of information activities (i.e. gathering, keeping, processing and making accessible information) with the direct participation of the state and in order to support state administration and to make access to information for the public and economic subjects. It comprises basic information systems used first of all to identification purposes (such as IS of Cadastre, IS of inhabitants, IS of economic subjects), and other IS of the state administration (such as IS of individual ministries, IS of District Offices, IS of Land Offices). The SIS is coordinated by the Ministry of Economy, which determines unified rules, methodology, standards and data formats.

The Municipal Information Systems (MIS) keep usually to the methodology of SIS and are created by municipalities according to their possibilities. They are based usually on cadastral information and LIS/GIS technologies. The MIS concentrates within its territory accessible and needed information, both of SIS and own information of municipality.

The building up the SIS and especially MIS is a great challenge to the private sector, which acts in this field in many roles. The most of tasks in projecting, creating and carrying on these IS are solved as public tenders for private companies. This fact together with the swift development of accessible information technologies is one of the reasons of extremely rapid development in this field.

6. The Land Management and Private sector

The private sector is involved into process of land management in many branches and on several levels. The private sector can participate in the sphere of gathering and maintaining land information, in expert activities, in projecting and planning, and, of course, in the realization of these projects, plans and programs. Such contracts are awarded in tenders.

In the sphere of land information which plays a key role in the process of land management, there are many possibilities for the private sector to participate. On the level of State Information System there are possibilities to take part in building the systems and in their subsequent development (solution and design of systems, development and tailoring of software, adviser activities, etc.), in digitizing graphical data and documents (e.g. cadastral maps, thematic maps or plans of other offices), in completing some data (e.g. completing cadastral data with soil quality data). On the level of Municipality Information Systems there are even wider possibilities. These systems based on LIS/GIS technologies are practically a domain of private sector with a wide range of activities from building systems, their fulfilling with data, (gathering,

processing and keeping data) , updating and distributing data. Specialists of many branches participate even in creating some data (e.g. private appraisers in creating price maps, or planners and designers as approved projects are often involved into the MIS).

Projecting activities, survey activities and consulting services are solely the matter of private sector, individuals or privatized companies. A special authorization according to law is usually needed.

From a point of view of profession of a land surveyor the possibilities in sphere of cadastre and land consolidation may be interesting. In the cadastre all the sub-division plans and setting-out of boundaries are made by private sector. Other private activities in the cadastre are connected with the conception of cadastre. The private sector can participate in identifying of minor geodetic control, in digitizing of cadastral maps and in completing with the soil quality data.

In the complex land consolidation the role of a surveyor is indispensable. According to the regulations a surveyor should at the very beginning set-out the periphery boundaries of land consolidation area in terrain and determine their new coordinates (including measurements of some objects significant for the new solution of area). The following work on project is carried out in the coordinates. The final step of the land consolidation is setting-out new boundaries and making the digital cadastral map of the area, which is then involved into the cadastre. This method needs a lot of surveying works, but enables to use efficient technology and the final result of it is the digital cadastral map. Since about 70% of territory of the state is covered with old graphical cadastral maps the complex land consolidation can significantly help to improve the cadastre.

6. Conclusions

The land management in the Czech Republic has a long tradition. The land management and its scope was influenced significantly by the political development. Several extremely extensive land reforms concerning the rural land with their enormous problems put the standard working land management in urban areas into shade.

The legislation framework of the land management has been in many spheres overworked but there is still an absence of final decision about the property of churches, which can slow down the whole process of land consolidation. Existing experience from the complex land consolidation has shown some weakness of the law which must be solved.

The restitution and privatization process in agriculture is legally and technically complicated, expensive and extremely time-consuming. Its completion needs economic and political stability and will take decades. There is a danger that the present criteria of land consolidation will be substantially changed according to transition of the role of classic farming. Production aspects of farming will be probably suppressed for the benefit of the environment. Very important benefit of the land consolidation is a simultaneous creation of the digital cadastral map.

The traditional separation of land management in rural and urban areas, which is under administration of different ministries, requires a higher level of coordination. The possibilities of better access to land information (State Information System, LIS/GIS of municipalities) can improve the coordination and can generally raise the level of land management in a substantial way.

The requirements of land management, especially the building of information systems and the long-term programs of land consolidation are a great challenge to the private sector.


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