Refusal of environmental permit: what steps can you take?

Was your planning permission refused? More and more people are facing a refusal of their building permit. However, this does not always happen on proper grounds. For example, we see municipalities refusing the concrete stop / construction shift to reject permit applications. You do not have to simply resign yourself to a refusal of an environmental permit. In this article, we discuss three possibilities to defend yourself.

Option 1: file an appeal

The first option is to appeal the refusal. In doing so, you challenge the government's decision.

To whom and by what deadline should I lodge an appeal?

Where you file an appeal depends on the authority handling your permit application on the merits. Usually, this is the municipality. In certain cases may also be the province or even the Flemish Government. An example of a provincial project is an environmental permit of the highest class. An example of a Flemish project is a building complex with a floor area of 50,000m² or more.

To lodge an appeal against a refusal of an environmental permit, the following rules apply:

  • Against a refusal of environmental permit by the municipality, you will have to file an appeal with the province. This must be done within the 30 days after the refusal.
  • Is your environmental permit refused by the province, then you will have to appeal this to the Flemish Government. Again, the deadline is 30 days.
  • In case of a refusal of environmental permit by the Flemish government, you will have to apply directly to the Licensing Disputes Board. The deadline for this is 45 days.

Notification of the decision is automatic via the environment counter.

What are the rules for appeals?

It is not enough to just send a letter opposing the refusal of your environmental permit. You will have to give reasons for this. Therefore, it is advisable that you seek assistance. After all, the risk of making a mistake, with all its consequences, is high.

Find out more about the pitfalls of filing your own appeal.

Some procedural requirements also apply here, such as the payment of a role fee. For an appeal to the province and the Flemish Government, this amounts to 100 euros per person. For an appeal to the Council for Permit Disputes, this amounts to 200 euros per person.

Find more information about an appeal procedure with the province here.

What if my appeal is rejected?

A refusal of your single permit by the province or the Flemish Government can be appealed again to the Council for Permit Disputes. The time limit for this is 45 days.

Note that the Council can only annul the refusal. It is then up to the province or the Flemish Government to take a new decision. In doing so, they must take into account the reasons given in the annulment judgment. However, this does not automatically mean that you will be granted the permit. You can still be refused. However, you may be able to appeal against a new refusal before the Council for Permit Disputes.

Read more about challenging an environmental permit here.

Option 2: customise your application

If your environmental permit is refused, you can amend your application. This can be done during the term of the appeal to the province or the Flemish Government. This way, you can address any comments or objections. If changes are made, it is possible that a new public research should be organised. During the procedure before the Licensing Disputes Board, you cannot make any changes. However, you can submit a new application during this procedure if necessary.

However, you do not have to wait until the appeal to make changes. You can do so as early as after the organisation of the public enquiry. Again, changes may require a new public enquiry.

Option 3: engage with licensing authority or objectors

Consultation with the authorities before submitting your application is always advisable. This way, you can take any comments into account and avoid a refusal of your environmental permit. After all, by having a consultation, you will know what they are paying attention to. However, nothing prohibits you from doing this even during the application. Not even if you have already lodged an appeal.

The same applies to any consultation with objectors. If you expect opposition, it may be advisable to enter into discussions with these individuals in advance. This will allow you to adjust your project even before submission. This way, you can avoid any objections or appeals.

Read more about applying for an environmental permit.

Tacit refusal of environmental permit?

In principle, the government to whom you submit your application is obliged to make a decision on it. The same applies when submitting an appeal to the province or the Flemish Government. The law stipulates that this must be done within a certain period of time. Yet it is possible that an explicit decision is not taken within this period. In this case, there is a tacit refusal of an environmental permit. You can appeal against this too.

Here you can find more information on what you can do in case of a silent refusal of an environmental permit.

Decision: building permit refusal? Be on time

A refusal of an environmental permit does not mean that your project is at an end. There is often a possibility of eventually obtaining approval. But then you must act fast. After all, legal deadlines are short.

Do you have questions about a permit application or was your environmental permit refused? Then feel free to contact with our spatial planning lawyer. We can fully assist you with your permit application for all of Flanders.

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