Cabinet approves Environmental and Planning Act

The new Environmental and Planning Act will lead to fewer rules, more freedom of choice for individuals and businesses, a single contact point for environmental permit applications, shorter procedures and hundreds of millions of euros in savings. Environmental and planning law, which is currently spread across 40 sectoral Acts, 117 orders in council and hundreds of ministerial orders, will be brought together in a single Environmental and Planning Act. This massive operation will affect everyone: the authorities, businesses and citizens.

The cabinet has approved the Environmental and Planning Act, proposed by the Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment, Melanie Schultz van Haegen, with the aim of simplifying and modernising the law in this area. Once enacted, it will merge a substantial number of Acts and bring order to the relevant legislation.

The Act will make it easier for citizens and businesses to apply for permits by providing for a single procedure, contact point and decision for applications. The duration of permit application procedures will fall from 26 to eight weeks. Bringing together the relevant legislation in one Act will reduce the number of permits that need to be applied for, increase the efficiency of the decision-making process, enhance convenience and cut costs. Weighing interests on a more comprehensive basis at the outset will not only improve decision-making, but also lead to faster implementation.

The Act will allow for simpler, more efficient and effective action to be taken to improve the living environment. Undertakings such as road and railway construction work, nature projects and setting up a business should all become easier. Greater administrative discretion will be built in to allow for variation, making it easier to respond to regional and local differences.

The bill arose from the coalition agreement and 7 ministries have been involved in the drafting process. Extensive consultations were also held with those who will be dealing with it in practice: municipalities, provinces, water authorities, businesses, environmental organisations and other stakeholders.

The cabinet has agreed to submit the bill to the Council of State for an advisory opinion. The text of the bill and the advisory opinion will be published when the bill is presented to the House of Representatives.