Building Codes and Zoning
Joe Par from Santa Fe wrote "Please can you explain what and
where I can and cannot build in Phuket? I am told there are building
regulations but I see a mix of properties wherever I go, some right
on the beach or high in the hills right in front of one another. I am
scared of being built out!"
In Phuket property buyers will quickly become aware that in many areas there is no clearly defined separation between different types of property. Commercial and residential properties are intermingled. This is especially true of the older parts of Phuket on the east coast in and around Phuket Town. On the west coast this is also the case in older communities, but less so in more recently developed areas. This however, has more to do with internally set project rules and regulations or land prices suggesting certain 'best fits' of property than active government regulation. In the hinterland of Bang Tao for instance, the predominance of various upscale residential villa developments is economic in origin. They have no local residential or commercial neighbours as the area has only recently been developed and lower cost property is out priced by current land values.
While there are some very limited zoning regulations according to type or aesthetic, there are building codes which define limits to the location, height and density of properties. Properties which appear to defy these codes may have been built prior to the introduction of these laws. Starting from the oceanfront, there are (as a general rule - though there are a few exceptions) designated zones each with different parameters.
Taking the most relevant in turn, in the first zone which extends from the mean high line back 50m, no building may be constructed in the first 20m. In the remaining 30m, structures may only be up to 6m in height (Effectively a one storey house or a low ceilinged, flat roofed two storey building) These may occupy up to 25% of the titled area. The next zone then extends back a further 150m. Here buildings may be up to 12m in height and occupy 70% of the available land. The next zone back (which runs as far at the base of the hills) allows buildings up to 16m in height. It was the implementation and enforcement of these codes which stopped the continued building of high rises.
Hillsides are a popular place to build ones dream ocean or mountain view home. To preserve Phuket's green hillsides and hilltops, the codes allow only buildings which are on land up to 80m above sea level. As a safety consideration building plan submissions are also subject to regulation based upon hillside gradient. If your hillside land (generally deemed land more than 40m above the sea level) then an 8m building limit applies. This is measured from the original grade level so terraced homes can be built whose total height, bottom to utmost top exceeds this height.
Clearly buyers have an interest in such codes to know what they can and cannot build. They also want to know what is allowable beside and importantly in front of them. Unlike California you cannot legally protest about your neighbour blocking your views if they comply with the codes. While government officials will respond to complaints of infractions, it is always best to err a little on the safe side if views are potentially in jeopardy. This is another good reason for building in estates where overall project design has been considered which preserves views and pleasant aesthetics for all.