The Flemish Decree on the enforcement of the unique environmental permit has entered into force

on Mar 5, 2018 in News

The unique environmental permit (‘Omgevingsvergunning’) has been fully operational for the Flemish region and all Flemish provinces, and a few municipalities, since 23 February 2017. As of 1 January 2018, all municipalities were required to introduce the unique environmental permit. However, the entry into force of the Flemish Decree regarding the enforcement of this permit was still to be determined.

On 9 February 2018, the Flemish Government decided to enforce the above Decree. As of 1 March 2018 the Flemish Decree on the enforcement of the unique environmental permit is applicable. We list below the major innovations or modifications.

As opposed to the unification of the administrative procedures due to the unique environmental permit, the enforcement remains sectorial. The new enforcement of the spatial planning legislation is more in line with the other environmental enforcement (immovable heritage, sectoral environmental law, etc.).

As a result of this harmonisation, the lion’s share of urban offences have been decriminalised and is now classified as urban infringements, which means they can only be subject to an administrative fine and can no longer be prosecuted by the Public Prosecutor as a criminal offence. Furthermore, the dismissal of the criminal prosecution can now result in an alternative administrative fine, as opposed to before, where a criminal dismissal meant an acquittal on both parts.

Finally, local authorities have been entrusted broader competences. For example, municipal inspectors can also impose administrative measures, as well as the Flemish regional inspector, who was previously the only one empowered to do so. As part of the intention to soften the enforcement of urban infringements, new instruments have been granted, such as the notice and ability for the inspectors to consult and give advice to remedy the infringement.

Due to the above changes, local authorities can now take the lead in enforcing urban and spatial planning within the limits of their municipalities. They also do no longer have to rely on a criminal prosecution and have more accurate powers to prevent, investigate and sanction urban infringements.

For more information, please contact Els Empereur.