Local policy visions: more frequent unjustified refusal of planning permission?

In our files, we see an increasingly important role of local policy visions in refusing planning permission. In practice, the concrete stop/build shift is also already having an impact on permit applications. Thus, we see - in all provinces - the tendency to refuse a building permit on the basis of a policy vision. And this usually happens in the context of the concrete freeze. But when should you effectively consider a policy vision? In this article, we explained the value of a policy vision.

Here you can find more information about the concrete stop / construction shift.

What are local policy visions?

Local policy visions are non-binding instruments through which one tries to shape spatial planning. The legal term for this is ' policy-driven developments '. They recur in the most diverse forms and names: assessment frameworks, dwelling type tests, guidelines manuals, residential environmental plans, etc.

Municipalities usually rely on such policy visions as an alternative planning instrument. Indeed, adopting or drafting a local policy vision is often cheaper than drawing up binding norms. After all, the municipality has to go through a specific legal procedure before it can impose a binding norm. This is particularly time-intensive. These policy visions can also be more easily adapted afterwards. There is also less risk of legal proceedings. After all, you cannot directly challenge such policy visions in court.

Why should you not always take these local policy visions into account?

The problem with these local policy visions is that they are often not provided for in legislation. This is in contrast to e.g. a spatial implementation plan. This makes the use of local policy visions controversial. Certain safeguards such as public participation, political validation or judicial oversight are compromised. Jurisprudence therefore attaches strict conditions to this. After all, one cannot simply refuse a building permit by referring to a non-binding policy vision.

What can you do if an environmental permit is refused?

In which cases are local policy visions allowed to be taken into account?

Thus, for local policy visions to be taken into account, a number of conditions must be met. For instance, the policy vision must have had some form of political validation. It must also be published and consultable in advance. Also, there must be plans to convert this policy vision into binding rules in the foreseeable future. For example, if the policy vision has still not been converted into binding rules after a number of years, it cannot be used to refuse an environmental permit.

Nor should the policy vision amount to laying down detailed regulations that actually belong in a spatial implementation plan. So the policy vision must be sufficiently flexible. On the other hand, it must not simply be non-binding principles either. Finally, a refusal of an environmental permit solely on the basis of a local policy vision is not allowed. There must always be a concrete assessment of the application against the existing situation in the immediate vicinity.

Find more information about applying for an environmental permit here.

Refusal of planning permission based on local policy vision: now what?

In this case, we need to test the conditions for using a policy vision. Has the policy vision not yet had political validation? Or does the policy vision not meet the criteria? You can then lodge an appeal with the province or the Flemish Government.

Here you can find more information on the appeal procedure for refusal of planning permission.

Was your environmental permit refused? Then take timely contact up with our urban planning lawyer. We can assist you throughout Flanders with an environmental permit refusal.

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