Do you wish to submit an application for an environmental permit, but don't know how? In this article, we explain the procedure about applying for an environmental permit step by step. The different types of permit are also briefly discussed.
Which works do I not need to apply for an environmental permit for?
You do not need an environmental permit for all operations. Some acts are exempt from permit. Also, in some cases, a simple notification is sufficient.
Among other things, maintenance works are exempted. You also do not usually need a permit for a renovation without volume expansion and without stability works.
However, these exemptions or notifications may be subject to special conditions. The municipality may also impose increasingly stringent conditions.
Can I just add on to an existing house?
You may also need a separate permit for additions to an existing house. Think, for example, of an overhang or a veranda extension. The need for a permit depends on several factors such as the municipal building code, among others.
Where should I apply for the environmental permit?
Applying for an environmental permit is almost always done digitally via the Environment Desk. On this page, you can find out in which cases you still have a paper request can submit. These include, for example, applications where the participation of an architect is not required.
What types of environmental permit exist?
The term environmental permit covers several types of permits. It includes construction, subdivision, and environmental permits. The term also includes the permit for retail activities and the permit for vegetation changes.
A separate procedure used to exist for each of these licences. Since 1 January 2018, only 1 procedure applies to all these permits. This allows you to apply for several permits at the same time. As a result, you only have to go through this procedure once, even if you need several permits for a project.
Who handles my application?
Usually this is the municipality. In certain cases, it will be the province or even the Flemish Government. The criteria for this are laid down by law. If a project does not belong to the list of provincial or Flemish projects, the municipality is competent. An example of a provincial project is a top class environmental permit. An example of a Flemish project is a golf course of 18 holes or more. A full schedule download here.
How does the procedure work?
Below, we go over procedure for applying for an environmental permit in five steps.
Step 1: Admissibility and completeness examination
First, the government handling your application will check whether your application is complete. It has 30 days from the submission of the application to do so. If certain documents are missing, it can request them additionally. However, the board may also decide to declare your application inadmissible. In this case, the procedure is stopped and you will have to submit a new application.
At this stage, the environmental impact of the application is also screened. This is done on the basis of a screening note that must be attached to the application in certain cases. If it is considered that there are significant effects on the environment, a full environmental impact report must be drawn up. In the latter case, the application will also be inadmissible. The procedure will then be stopped. You will have to submit a new application to which the full environmental impact report is attached.
However, you may challenge the decision declaring your application inadmissible no administrative appeal. You will should apply directly to the Licensing Disputes Board. However, it is usually sufficient to submit a new application to which the missing documents have been added.
The decision on admissibility and completeness can be found in the Environment Counter.
Step 2: Organising public enquiry
In case of a positive decision, the public enquiry starts. During the public enquiry, local residents have a period of 30 days to file objections.
The public enquiry will start within 10 days of your application being declared complete and admissible. You should affix a yellow poster in A2 format to announce that a public enquiry is underway. You will receive the yellow poster from the municipality. The document must always be visible from the public road. You must also inform the municipality of the start date of the posting. This is done by making a declaration in the Environment Counter or filling in a form.
After the public enquiry, you may amend your application in response to the objections submitted. In order to strengthen your case, such an amendment may be advisable. As a result, a new public enquiry will be necessary in certain cases. Any opinions should also be sought again.
Step 3: Sourcing advice
After an admissible application, the board also seeks opinions from the Heritage Agency, the Nature and Forest Agency, the Department of Mobility and Public Works, etc., among others. The cases in which they must provide advice are laid down by law. For example, the Agency for Immovable Heritage must provide an opinion in the case of works on a monument.
Typically, a deadline of 50 days applies for these opinions. In the case of a permit application without a public enquiry, a deadline of 30 days applies. No timely opinion? Then it is assumed that the opinion is favourable.
In the case of complex applications, however, the opinions are coordinated by an environmental permit committee. It issues its integrated opinion within a 90-day period.
In principle, the opinions issued are not binding, unless the law provides otherwise. However, they must be taken into account when granting the permit. You can consult the opinions in the Environment Counter.
Step 4: Environmental officer report and decision competent authority
When the municipality or province handles your application, the municipal or provincial environment officer will prepare a report. This is only when an opinion from the environmental permit committee is not required. This opinion will give a positive or negative opinion on your application.
The opinion is not binding. But the opinion must be taken into account in the final decision. The opinion must be drawn up 10 days before the expiry of the decision period. This decision period is:
- 105 days if a public enquiry is organised.
- 120 days if advice from the environmental permit committee is required.
This period is extended once by 60 days in the following cases:
- If the application was amended and a new public enquiry was required.
- if the application is accompanied by a decision on the construction of a municipal road.
If no public enquiry is required, the deadline is 60 days. No extension is possible here.
The time limits are always counted from the day after the application was declared admissible and complete. If no decision is taken within the set time limit, the single permit is deemed to have been refused.
The final decision can be appealed by you, a local resident or an advisory body. The time limit for this is short. It is usually 30 days.
Note: A separate appeal must be lodged against the decision on the construction of a municipal road. This is done with the Flemish Government. This is subject to separate procedural requirements.
Step 5: bonding
You should stick a yellow poster in A2 format to announce that a decision has been taken. This should always be done when the permit has been granted. If the permit has been refused, this is only required if a public enquiry has been organised. Here too, the poster is provided by the municipality
Feasibility of a permit: when can you start the works?
Proper posting of the decision is important as it allows the appeal period to run for third parties. If no appeal is lodged within 35 days from the first day of posting, you may use the permit. The person filing an appeal must notify you. This is done via registered mail or the Environment Desk.
What does an environmental permit application cost?
For an ordinary application, you have the cost of a surveyor, architect and a charge from the municipality. For more complex procedures, this also involves various studies. Consider, for example, a preliminary archaeological study and an environmental impact study.
Obtaining an environmental permit is no mean feat. Good preparation is crucial. That is why your architect is your first point of contact. It is also best, especially for more complex or extensive projects, to seek the assistance of an environmental law lawyer. Confianz can assist you with all the legal aspects of a permit application. And this for all of Flanders.
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