Developers could face fines of up to 10 percent of the total budget of their projects if they try to build without permission or do not follow plans.
A draft law proposed yesterday said developments without planning permits or deviating from approved plans will be stopped and the builders fined between 5 and 10 percent of the project's budget.
If developers refuse to halt construction, local governments will have the power to close down the building site and demolish the partly-built development.
The tough draft law was discussed for the first time yesterday by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC).
Minister of Construction Wang Guangtao said that one of its main aims is to prevent developers from recklessly violating approved plans.
"Punishing these planning violations has long been a headache because of the lack of clear laws and regulations," he said. "This time, we made it clear."
The draft law could also be used to prevent local governments from changing plans frequently, as it details procedures for making and changing plans, according to the minister.
Under the law, plans could be changed if a higher-level plan is changed, or if the State Council approves major construction projects nearby and existing plans need changing to adapt to it.
In some circumstances other higher-level governments will also be able to revise plans.
Government officials who refuse to adhere to the law would face personal punishments such as being removed from their posts.
Wang accused local governments of blindly chasing urban development and approving "vanity projects".
He said that in some areas ongoing developments were redrawn when local leaders were replaced.
"We want to make it clear that a region's development plan should not change just because individual government officials want it to," the minister said.
Wang also highlighted the law's role in better coordinating planning in urban and rural areas.
He said the existing two-tiered planning system, which took shape in the early 1990s after the passing of the Urban Planning Law and State Council regulations on rural planning, lag behind the development of the economy.
"New problems have emerged in urban and rural planning," he said. "Misuse of land is serious in some rural areas, and current rural planning is inadequate and fails to meet the needs of farmers."
He added that a coordinated approach to urban and rural planning is needed to avoid unnecessary developments wasting land, particularly in prosperous areas rapidly being developed such as the Yangtze and Pearl river deltas.
The NPC Standing Committee will continue to discuss the draft law today.
(China Daily April 25, 2007)