From concrete cap to construction shift: practical implications for your building application

The concrete freeze has been in the news for several years. Meanwhile, people have evolved from the term 'concrete freeze' to the term 'construction shift'. But what does this mean in concrete terms? And what are the practical implications for your building application? This article offers you an overview.

Concrete stop meaning: what does the concrete stop / construction shift mean?

Very concretely, the terms concrete freeze / building shift imply that we all take up less space. The aim of the concrete freeze is to ensure that no new open space is taken up for building by 2040. In other words, the aim is to use space more sparingly.

Specifically, the concrete stop/build shift aims to compact only in spatially suitable locations. This is close to cores or where space is already occupied by building. The policy aims to preserve or rearrange open space to create additional open space.

How will this concrete stop/build shift be shaped?

Much ink has already been spilled on this. The latest state of affairs is the agreement reached on it by the Flemish Government in early December. However, this is merely an agreement. It still has to be converted into binding regulations, which may take some time. Until then, the ordinary rules on, among other things, compensation for planning damage and reallocation will continue to apply.

What does this agreement in principle by the Flemish government on the implementation of the concrete stop/build shift entail?

Among other things, this agreement on how to fill the concrete stop/build shift agreed that the 'residential reserve areas' would be placed under a bell jar until 2040. There would also be an intention to increase compensation for owners who are no longer allowed to build.

Residential reserve areas are usually areas of a few hectares in size that are contiguous with real residential areas, but are usually not yet built on. Municipalities would be given 20 years to decide what to do with them. If the land is converted to open space, the municipality will have to pay compensation to the owners.

The municipality does not have to do this. It can also decide that the area is eligible for development anyway. However, it could do so only after a public enquiry and preparation of an environmental impact report. The municipality can also choose to do nothing. In this case, it would be up to the Flemish Government in 2040 to possibly reallocate the land and compensate the owners for this.

A second part of this agreement means that there would be higher fees for those who are no longer allowed to build on their building land. This fee would be raised to 100% of the current market value. At present, this is only 80% of the amount paid at the time for the purchase of the land, adjusted for indexation. It is not clear who should pay this fee. This constitutes one of the major pain points of the concrete cap/construction shift. It is therefore possible that a different solution may be chosen on this point in the final texts.

Read more about contesting planning permission here.

What does the concrete stop/build shift mean for your building application?

As of today, it is therefore not entirely clear how the concrete stop/build shift will be implemented in concrete terms. To this end, we are waiting for the final legislative texts to be adopted. However, this does not mean that they should not be taken into account at the moment. These concepts do have an impact on both current and new building applications.

Indeed, a local authority will often refuse your building application for other reasons if it considers it not in line with these principles. For example, a refusal may be on the basis of local policy visions.

The question, however, is whether this refusal of your building permit is lawful. After all, these refusals are usually based on local policies that have no binding force. As a result, they may only be taken into account in specific cases. They also often refer to all kinds of studies of which it is not entirely clear how they relate to your building application.

Read more about the steps of applying for planning permission/environmental permit.

Refusal of planning permission based on concrete stop/build shift: what to do?

However, these conditions for the use of policy views may not always be met. It may also conflict with previous similar permits already granted in your area. After all, in this case, there is no established policy. It is therefore very important in this case to see whether the refusal of your permit was lawfully made. This will require an analysis of the refusal. An appeal against an unlawful refusal may be lodged with the province or the Flemish Government.

Read more about your options in case of refusal of an environmental permit.

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