7 questions about filing an objection to an environmental permit

You want to proceed with filing an objection to an environmental permit. But how do you do that? What objections do you formulate? And what happens after you have lodged an objection? In this article, we explain what rules apply when filing an objection against an environmental permit.

What is an objection?

By filing an objection to an environmental permit let you know you disagree with a project. This may involve the construction of a house, but equally well the construction of a new industrial estate or the expansion of a shop in your neighbourhood. You may disagree with this, for example, because there is overlooking on your plot. Or because you think the building does not fit in with its surroundings. For example, because it is too high. Or because the planned activity will cause noise pollution.

How and to whom do I file an objection?

Filing an objection to an environmental permit always happens at the municipality. This is non-formal and can be done in different ways. For instance, it can even be done verbally. In this case, the official will note the objection and have it signed. For written objections, a simple letter. Registered mail is not required, but it is useful. For example, if you want to be sure that your objection has been properly received.

You can also use the Environment counter. Be careful with this, however. After all, you will not be able to view the entire application on the Environment Counter. The Environment Counter only shows a limited selection of documents. To view the full application, you will have to contact the municipality.

Important: although this procedure seems quite simple, there are pitfalls to submit arguments for an objection themselves.

Why does it make sense to file an environmental permit objection?

Objection period for environmental permit: within what time limit should I file an objection?

You can object during the period of the public enquiry. This takes 30 days.

The start and end date of the public enquiry will be announced by posting of a yellow poster. The municipality also publishes this on its website. The municipality also notifies the owners of adjacent plots. A public enquiry will not be organised for all applications. Indeed, for certain simple permit applications, this is not mandatory.

To date, there are no consequences attached to your failure to file a timely objection. However, in order to safeguard your rights to the maximum extent, we recommend you to raise your objections as soon as possible. And it is best to do this in as comprehensive a manner as possible. This way, you give the applicant the opportunity to adjust his project, taking your concerns into account. We can help you draw up an objection.

Read more about the course of the public research

On what grounds can I file an objection to an environmental permit?

The arguments on the basis of which you can file an objection are very broad. We already gave some examples above. However, you should make sure that your objection relates to urban planning aspects. This includes, for example, the size of the building or its fit-in with the surroundings.

Aspects of civil law are not included. This includes, for example, the fact that the project violates an easement. Nor is the fact that the project will reduce the value of your property sufficient. However, you will often be able to object on other grounds in this case.

Note: It is important that you seek assistance in preparing an objection. In principle, the arguments you fail to include in an objection cannot be raised again in the appeal against the permit.

Find more information about challenging an environmental permit here.

What after filing an objection to an environmental permit?

You will have to wait until the final licensing decision to know how the board dealt with your objection. After all, one is obliged to refer to the objections filed. One is also obliged to indicate how it has dealt with them. However, there is no obligation to refuse the permit based on your objection. The board can also refute it with reasons.

Note: There is no obligation to inform you of the final licensing decision. Not even if you have filed an objection. Some municipalities do do so voluntarily, but this is not always the case.

Read more about how to find out about a permit decision here.

Is an objection the same as an appeal?

Filing an objection is not the same as filing an appeal. When filing an objection, you let it be known that you do not agree with a project. It is then up to the authority granting the permit to assess whether your objection is well-founded. However, it is not obliged to refuse the permit based on your objection. If you disagree with how your objection was assessed, you can appeal. This is a separate procedure with separate procedural requirements.

My objection was refuted: now what?

If you disagree with how your objection has been handled, you can on appeal go. This is usually done to the province. However, sometimes you will also have to turn to the Flemish Government. Or even directly to the Council for Permit Disputes.

The timeframes for this are usually very short. For an appeal to the province or the Flemish Government, this period is 30 days. For an appeal to the Council for Permit Disputes, this period is 45 days. This period commences the day after the first day of posting.

Therefore, follow the status of the application carefully via the Environment Counter. This will mention the first day of posting. It will also mention the date on which the appeal period ends. However, you cannot consult the final decision via the Environment Desk. You will have to contact the municipality again to request the full decision.

Read more about the appeal procedure with the province in case of a refusal of a building permit.

Do you wish to file an objection to an environmental permit? Or do you need help in preparing an objection? Then feel free to contact on. Then together we can your capabilities overflowing.

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