Urban and rural planning law passed

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 October, 2007, 12:00am

A new law on urban and rural planning was passed yesterday, and lawmakers approved amendments to three much-discussed pieces of legislation on conservation, civil procedure and lawyers.

The new legislation wheeled out by the National People's Congress Standing Committee - the country's highest lawmaking body - underscored the leadership's emphasis on environmental and legal reforms.

The new Urban and Rural Planning Law aims to weed out local government defiance of urban planning in pursuit of image-building projects, which often lead to illegal land reclamation and demolition and a waste of resources in building unnecessary grand structures.

'Some government leaders use urban planning as a tool to score political points,' NPC Standing Committee member Li Xinliang told Xinhua. 'They only care about planning during their tenure, and when the next leadership comes in, they would often revoke what has already been planned.'

The law extends responsibility for devising urban plans from provincial down to village level; requires input and supervision from the people's congress at every level; provides a legal procedure for making amendments to a plan; specifies that individuals can sue planning departments for violations of a plan; and imposes fines and administrative penalties on failures to implement a plan.

It also puts urban and rural planning under one roof to deal with unprecedented migration and other social challenges that rapid urbanisation has brought.

Prominent amendments made to the Energy Conservation Law include making officials' efforts a performance assessment criterion. How much this would weigh in their appraisals was not determined. Also, developers are now required to inform consumers of energy conservation measures in the property. They are subject to a fine up to 200,000 yuan if the information is false.

Amendments to the Civil Procedures Law, the first in 16 years, focused on making the application for a retrial easier and the execution of judgments more effective - two problems that have been plaguing civil justice on the mainland. The amended law expands the scenarios for a petitioner to apply for a retrial - providing the possibility for the case to be reheard due to error on the court's part - and also scenarios where the procuratorate can request a retrial. An option to make a retrial application to the original court is no longer available, removing the possibility that the court may be reluctant to order a retrial. Also, a defendant may be ordered to provide a report of asset flow up to one year before execution of judgment and be restricted from leaving the country if he is likely to remove or hide assets. New amendments to the Lawyers' Law, introduced in 1996 and unchanged since, include permission to set up one-man legal firms and the guarantee of basic lawyers rights.

These amendments include the right not to be sued for submissions made in court and the right to see their arrested clients without supervision.