Revision of Environment and Planning Laws

Through the Environment and Planning Act (Omgevingswet) the government wants to combine and simplify the regulations for spatial projects. The aim is to make it easier to start up projects. For example, the construction of housing on former business parks, or the building of wind farms.

Environment and Planning Act: simplifying and combining environmental laws

Environmental legislation consists of dozens of laws and hundreds of regulations for land use, residential areas, infrastructure, the environment, nature and water. Each has its own starting points, procedures and requirements. This makes the legislation too complex for the people who have to work with it. Consequently, it takes longer to get projects off the ground.

The cabinet wants to simplify the laws on the environment and planning and to combine them in a single Environment and Planning Act. For the time being, the Act will replace 26 existing laws, including the Water Act, the Crisis & Recovery Act and the Spatial Planning Act. The provisions of eight other laws will be transferred to the Environment & Planning Act.

The new bill has been approved by both Chambers of Parliament. The cabinet now draws up introductory legislation. The expectation is that the Act will take effect in 2024.

Principles of the Environment and Planning Act

Through the Environment and Planning Act the Cabinet wants to improve links between:

  • different projects and activities (in the fields of spatial planning, the environment and nature);
  • sustainable developments such as locations for wind farms;
  • the various regions.

The new Act will result in fewer regulations and will reduce the burden of conducting studies. At the same time, decisions on projects and activities can be made better and more quickly. Moreover, the Act is more in line with European regulations and allows more room for private initiatives.

What does the Environment and Planning Act mean for citizens, companies and authorities?

Below are three examples:

Environmental Plan for authorities

Currently, some municipalities have over 100 land-use plans. A single environmental plan for the entire area will replace all of these. This means fewer regulations and more cohesion.

‘One-stop-shop’ for citizens and companies

If citizens or companies want to implement a project, they will be able to apply for a (digital) permit at a ‘one-stop-shop’. The municipality or province will then make a decision. Are they both responsible for the decision? No matter, only 1 will make the decision. This simplifies things for the applicant and speeds up the permit application procedure.

Companies need to conduct fewer studies

To obtain a permit for a spatial project, companies have to conduct studies (for example, a soil survey). With the Environment and Planning Act, research data will remain valid for longer. This makes it easier to re-use data. Moreover, some research obligations will be abolished and this means lower costs.