Challenging planning permission: practical tips

Do you disagree with a planned construction project in your neighbourhood? But how do you assert your rights as part of the accompanying permit procedure? You have several options to assert your rights, but be quick about it. This article briefly discusses the different steps about contesting a building permit.

Who do I file an objection or appeal against?

First of all, you need to know to which administration or government body you should file an objection or appeal against an environmental permit. For an objection, this is always the municipality. For an appeal, it is the body that supervises the government agency that handles the permit application on the merits.

1. File timely objections

An objection lets the municipality know why you disagree with a particular project. As part of a permit procedure, a public enquiry is usually conducted first organised. During this public enquiry, you can visit within a deadline of 30 days express your objections to the project. An objection is form-free and can be submitted in several ways.

Read more about the public enquiry and how to object.

However, certain simple permit applications are not subject to the obligation to organise a public enquiry. Under this simplified procedure, the board is only obliged to seek the opinion of the owners of adjacent plots insofar as the permit application relates to the erection, extension or demolition of dividing walls or walls eligible for common ownership. Also in this case, you will have a deadline of 30 days as of the receipt of this letter.

The decree on the modular environmental licence voorziet een afschaffing van het onderscheid tussen de gewone en de vereenvoudigde procedure. In de plaats daarvan, komt er 1 basisprocedure van 60 dagen. Deze basisprocedure kan uitgebreid worden met verschillende modules. Zo is er een verlenging van de termijn met 60 dagen wanneer een openbaar onderzoek noodzakelijk is. De gevallen waarin een openbaar onderzoek verplicht is, zullen decretaal vastgelegd worden. Wanneer deze regelgeving in werking zal treden, staat evenwel nog niet vast. Tot dan blijft het onderscheid tussen de gewone en de vereenvoudigde vergunningsprocedure gelden.

To safeguard your rights, it is essential to file an objection in good time. This will allow the permit applicant to address your comments as early as the initial stage. The board can also then impose additional conditions.

Here you will find more explanation on how to file an objection to an environmental permit.

2. Use the Environment Counter

The Environment counter is a website of the Flemish government where you can find all information on pending permit applications. It allows you to monitor the procedures per municipality or per administration. It is also possible to consult file documents.

So by using the Environment Counter, you can keep yourself up to date with a pending procedure. This allows you to be fully prepared. This also allows you to take certain actions easier and faster.

3. Follow closely the decision on the licence application

The final licensing decision refers to your objections. The decision will therefore be reasoned, taking into account your concerns. However, know that the board is not obliged to refuse a licence solely on the basis of your objection.

There are various ways in which a licensing decision is communicated. For example, consider the yellow poster in A2 format or via consultation in the Environment Counter. After official publication of the permit decision, you usually have 30 days to file an appeal.

After the deadline expires, you cannot file an appeal. It is therefore important that you closely follow the decisions on the project itself. Indeed, neither the board nor the licence applicant is obliged to inform you of the final decision. Not even if you have filed an objection.

Read more about how you can find out about a permit decision.

4. Challenging planning permission: file an appeal on time

In any case, independently of filing an objection, you can, appeal against the final licensing decision. Usually, you will have to file this appeal with the province. However, for more complex projects you may also have to lodge this appeal with the Flemish Government. Or you may have to appeal directly to the Council for Permit Disputes.

There are some procedural obligations attached to filing this appeal. These obligations depend on where you file the appeal. As a rule, the time limits are short.

A deadline of 30 days. For direct appeal to the Licensing Disputes Board, the time limit is 45 days.

5. To the Licensing Disputes Board

If you file an admissible appeal, the province or the Flemish Government - unlike when filing an objection - will always inform you of the final decision.

When your profession was rejected by the province or the Flemish Government, you have the option of addressing the Council for Permit Disputes. You have 45 days time to file an appeal. This period starts the day after the date the decision was served on you.

There are also certain procedural obligations attached to filing this appeal.

Note: you can only turn to the Council for Licensing Disputes turn if you have previously lodged an appeal.

Exceptionally, the prior appeal requirement does not apply in some proceedings where you need to address the Licensing Disputes Board directly. Think, for example, of specific industrial projects or golf courses with more than 18 holes.

Find more information on the procedure at the Licensing Disputes Board here.

Impact concrete stop / construction shift

In practice, we find that municipalities have the concrete stop / construction shift unfairly use to deny permit applications. Often, local governments decide based on their own policy visions that have no binding force. You can also challenge these decisions.

What can you do if your environmental permit was refused?

Conclusion: be quick

Contesting a building permit in Flanders is a complex matter. Moreover, in the initial phase, they do not automatically keep you personally informed of the status of the procedure. It is therefore recommended that you Get assistance from an environmental law lawyer. This way, you can safeguard your rights. But be quick: after all, the deadlines are short. If the deadline expires, you can no longer challenge the permit.

Did you questions About a building permit challenge? Or are you planning to take action against a project? If so, please feel free to contact on. Confianz assists you throughout the entire procedure. This throughout Flanders.

Last update: July 2024

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