Speeding up the permitting process in Italy

Following the launch of our international insights map, we interviewed Milan-based director, Giacomo Spinelli, about his experience of permitting in Italy…

Q: How does Milan compare with the rest of Italy?

A: Compared to larger cities in Italy (such as Rome, Naples and Ravenna), it’s easier because things tend to be more organised in Milan. That said, it’s not as easy as in smaller towns where the same person in the City Council follows your application from the beginning of the process to the end.

Special permits are required for pretty much everything. You must apply for a permit from the heritage commission if you are within 100m of a listed building – even if the building you’re working on is not listed! In Rome, it’s even more difficult in this respect, as you must obtain two permits: one from the national heritage commission and another from the city of Rome.

Q: In your experience, do you feel that Italy is more or less bureaucratic than the rest of Europe?

A: More! Especially when you compare Italy to the UK, where the permitting process is much more straightforward.

We have to fill out a lot of paperwork and this isn’t helped by the fact that, in most cities, you can’t submit applications electronically. Strangely enough, although we’re starting to develop an electronic system in Italy, it will be rolled-out in smaller cities first. For example, in the city of Turin, applications can be sent electronically whereas in Milan, it can only be done on paper.

Q: Can you recall a particularly challenging permitting situation in Milan?

A: It doesn’t matter what project you are working on, obtaining any kind of permit here can be a challenge. This largely comes down to a lack of communication between the governing bodies.

Recently, whilst working on a store for a major fashion brand, I applied for a permit for a very minor thing (installation of temporary vinyl). Having successfully received the permit from the heritage commission, I had to then pass this document onto the City Council and have them issue it back to us. It had already taken two weeks for the permit to arrive from the heritage commission (as it was sent by post) so, to speed up the process, I  hand delivered it to the City Council. This seems crazy when you consider that their offices are only 300m apart.


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