CHAPTER 1.
Introductory provisions



Article 1.

This Decree governs a regional matter.


Article 2.

The following definitions shall apply for the purposes of this Decree:

public concerned: any natural or legal person and any association, organisation or group having legal personality that is affected or likely to be affected by or has an interest in the decision on the issuing or updating of an Environment Permit or licensing conditions, whereby non-governmental organisations promoting environmental protection shall be deemed to have an interest;
secured dispatch: one of the following methods of service:
  a) a registered letter;
  b) submission in person with proof of receipt;
  c) any other service method authorised by the Government of Flanders in which the date of notification can be established with certainty;
DABM: the decree of 5 April 1995 containing general provisions on environmental policy;
final decision: a decision against which an organised administrative appeal can no longer be lodged and which, with regard to the right to continue the operation of the classified establishment or activity as stated in Article 70, § 1, second paragraph, and Article 390, § 6 , has not been destroyed in whole or in part initially by the Board of Permit Disputes and insofar as the decisions in first and second administrative instance permitted further operation. The right to further exploitation ceases definitively when the Board of Permit Disputes decides the suspension of the permit or after a maximum period of five months after the first decision of the Board of Permit Disputes;
municipal projects: the projects restrictively designated by the Government of Flanders for which the bench of Mayor and Aldermen is authorised to take decisions at the first administrative instance;
notification deed: the document showing that the competent authority has explicitly or tacitly taken note of a notification;
Environment Permit: the written decision of the licensing authority authorising a project that requires a permit;
project: all of the following elements or at least one of them that are subject to the permit or notification requirement stated in Article 5:
  a) urban planning actions;
  b) the operation of classified establishments or activities;
  c) retail activities;
  d) changing the vegetation;
  or the parcelling out of land;
provincial projects: the projects restrictively designated by the Government of Flanders for which the deputation is authorised to take decisions at the first administrative instance;
10° VCRO: the Flemish Spatial [Town & Country] Planning Code;
11° Flemish projects: the projects restrictively designated by the Government of Flanders for which the Government of Flanders is authorised to take decisions at the first administrative instance.

 

Unless a contrary definition is provided by this Decree, the following definitions apply in this Decree:

the definitions stated in articles 1.1.2 and 4.1.1 of the VCRO;
the definitions stated in articles 5.1.1 and 5.1.2 of the DABM.
the definitions stated in article 2 of the decree of 15 July concerning the integral commercial establishment policy.
the definitions stated in article 2 of the decree of 21 October 1997 on nature conservation and the natural environment.

Article 3.

The purpose of this Decree is to bring about the efficient, purposeful and integrated granting of permits that contributes to the objectives stated in:

Article 1.1.4 of the VCRO;
Article 5.1.3 of the DABM;

Article 4 of the decree of 15 July on the integral commercial establishment policy;

Article 6 of the Decree of 21 October 1997 concerning the conservation of nature and the natural environment.

 

This Decree shall be without prejudice to the substantive obligations established under or by virtue of:

Title IV of the VCRO;
Title V of the DABM;
the Decree of 15 July concerning the integral commercial establishment policy;
the Decree of 21 October 1997 on nature conservation and the natural environment.

 

For projects that fall within the scope of a European regulation, the provisions of this Decree shall apply to the extent that they are complementary to the provisions of the applicable regulation.


Article 4.

Within the limits of the budget, the Government of Flanders shall grant subsidies to local authorities for the additional costs associated with the preparation, organisation and execution of this Decree.


These subsidies can be used for additional investments and for personnel and operating costs for processing and assessing Environment Permits.


The Government of Flanders shall establish the more specific rules for the application of this article.


Article 5.

This Decree applies to projects that are subject to:

the permit requirement, namely for:
  a)   the performance of urban development actions as stated in article 4.2.1 of the VCRO;
  b)   the parcelling of land as stated in article 4.2.15 of the VCRO;
  c)   the operation of a classified facility or activity of the first or second category as stated in article 5.2.1 of the DABM;
  d)   retail activities subject to a permit as referred to in article 11 of the decree of 15 July on the integral commercial establishment policy;
  e)   changes to the vegetation subject to a permit, stated in Article 9bis, § 7, and Article 13, § 4 and § 5, of the Decree of 21 October 1997 on nature conservation and the natural environment.
the notification requirement, namely for:
  a)   the performance of urban development actions as stated in articles 4.2.2 and 4.2.4 of the VCRO;
  b)   the operation of the classified establishment or activity of the third category as stated in article 5.2.1 of the DABM.

 


Section 2.
Permit and notification obligation


Article 6.

Without a prior Environment Permit, no one may carry out, operate, parcel out or make a permit-requiring change to a project that is subject to a permit requirement by or pursuant to the decrees referred to in Article 5.

 

No one may implement, operate or make a notifiable change to a project that is subject to a notification obligation by or pursuant to the decrees referred to in Article 5, without prior express or tacit certification.
 


Article 7.

§ 1.
Without prejudice to the application of article 5.2.1, § 3 and § 4 of the DABM, the Environment Permit shall serve as acknowledgement for that part of the project subject to notification if the project is subject to both the notification and the permit requirement.
 
§ 2.
If the project contains elements that are subject to multiple licensing or notification obligations, by or pursuant to the decrees referred to in Article 5, and those aspects are inextricably linked, the application for a permit will include the aspects concerned under penalty of inadmissibility if at least one element of the application requires a permit.
 
The obligation to submit jointly, stated in the first paragraph, does not apply to applications for or reporting of urban development activities and the operation of classified establishments or activities that are only necessary during the implementation phase of the project. If an environmental impact statement has to be drawn up for the project and the environmental impact statement makes relevant statements about the method of implementation, the aim is to submit jointly with regard to the aspects that are dealt with in the environmental impact statement
 


Section 3.
Project meeting


Article 8.

In preparation for a permit application, if a realistic project study is available, the initiator can ask the competent authority stated in article 15 to organise a project meeting with the advisory bodies appointed pursuant to article 24.


The purpose of the project meeting is to coordinate procedures between the authorities concerned and discuss any project adjustments required or deemed useful.


The competent authority stated in article 15 can invite third-party stakeholders to a project meeting, either on its own initiative or at the request of the initiator.


The Government of Flanders can establish more specific rules in relation to the project meeting and in so doing can limit its scope.


Article 9.
Appointment of municipal, provincial and regional environmental official


Translation not available

Article 9/1.

Each province appoints at least one provincial environmental officer by provincial council decision.

 

The province ensures that the appointed staff members collectively combine sufficient knowledge of both spatial planning and the environment. The Government of Flanders can establish the quality requirements that provide evidence of this knowledge.

 

The provincial environmental officer performs the duties stated in this decree independently and neutrally. He must not be disadvantaged by the exercise of his duties.
 


Article 10.

The Government of Flanders shall appoint one or more regional environmental officials.


The Government of Flanders shall ensure that the appointed official or officials jointly combine sufficient knowledge of both spatial planning and the environment. The Government of Flanders can establish the quality requirements that provide evidence of this knowledge.


The regional environmental official shall perform the tasks mentioned in this Decree in an independent and neutral manner. He must not be disadvantaged by the exercise of his duties.


Section 5.
Environmental Fund and dossier taxes


Article 11.

§1.

An Environment Fund shall be established. The Environment Fund is a budgetary fund within the meaning of the provisions of Article 15, §2 of the Flemish Code of Public Finances of 29 March 2019.

 

§2.

The resources available to the Environmental Fund are:

the balance of the Environmental Fund available as of 31 December of the year preceding the budgetary year;

all receipts resulting from the application of this Decree;

other resources allocated to the fund by virtue of statutory and decreed provisions.

 

§3.

The resources of the Environmental Fund shall be used for policy costs associated with the preparation, organisation and execution of this Decree.

 

§4.

The Government of Flanders manages the Environmental Fund.


It shall provide the necessary administrative and logistical support for the Environmental Fund and can, in accordance with the applicable rules, delegate some of its powers to the senior official appointed for that purpose.

§5. The Government of Flanders shall establish the organic rules that apply to the financial and material management of the Environmental Fund.


Article 12.

§1.
Any natural or legal person shall owe a file tax in the following cases:

when submitting a permit application in the first instance to the Government of Flanders or the regional environmental official;
when lodging an appeal against a decision in first instance regarding an application for an Environment Permit, except in the case of an appeal against a tacit refusal;
when lodging an appeal against a decision in the first instance regarding a request for an update, except in the case of an appeal against an implied refusal.

 
The appellants stated in article 53, 3° to 6° inclusive shall not owe a file tax.

§2.
The file tax shall amount to:

in the case of an application as stated in paragraph 1, 1° that is processed in accordance with the usual procedure: EUR 500;
 in all other cases referred to in paragraph 1: EUR 100.

 

§3.
The file tax shall be paid into the following account:

the account of the province in the case of appeals to the deputation;
the account of the Environmental Fund in the case of applications or appeals to the Government of Flanders.

 

§4.

The Government of Flanders can establish more specific rules regarding the file tax.

 


Section 6.
Administrative loop


Article 13.

If the competent authority stated in article 15 or article 52 establishes that an irregularity has occurred that could lead to the decision being annulled, it can rectify the irregularity.

Where applicable, the competent authority can:

organise a new public review;
the opinion of the Environment Permit Committee stated in article 16, § 1 or the opinions stated in article 24, article 42 or article 59, either initially or for a second time.

Section 7.
Reporting on compliance with time limits for making decisions


Article 14.

The licensing authorities shall report annually to the Flemish Parliament through the Government of Flanders on compliance with the time limits for making decisions stated in this Decree.


Reporting by the municipalities and provinces shall be through the Government of Flanders according to the model and in the manner specified by it.


Reporting shall relate to permit applications submitted in the calendar year situated two years prior to the calendar year in which the reporting takes place.


Section 8.
Digitisation

Translation not available

Article 14/1.

The procedures referred to in this Decree and the procedures amended or introduced by this Decree in other decrees can take place digitally, either wholly or in part, in accordance with the rules established by the Government of Flanders.
 
The following applications, requests or official initiatives or notifications shall be submitted digitally:
applications, requests or official initiatives or notifications relating to:

Flemish projects;
provincial projects;
projects not exempt from the involvement of an architect;
the operation of a classified establishment or activity [...];
the parcelling of land;
the updating of an Environment Permit for the parcelling of land, if this update involves a change to the parcel boundaries.

 

By way of derogation from paragraph 2, these cases may be submitted in analogue or digital format if they may be submitted in French pursuant to the applicable language legislation.

If the competent authority establishes that certain parts of an application, request, notification or administrative appeal submitted in analogue format were generated digitally, it can ask the applicant, requester, notifier or appellant to submit these parts in digital format. These shall comply promptly with any such request.

The Government of Flanders can amend the list in subparagraph 2. It can also establish more specific rules if the digital system provided by Flanders is unavailable due to technical problems, and suspend or extend the time limits of the procedures referred to in this Decree for the duration of the technical problems.