A Belgian court has annulled a building permit for a chicken shed, which puts the PAS nitrogen regulation in question, with potentially far-reaching consequences.
For the first time, a Belgian court suspended a license purely on the basis of the nitrogen argument. The Flemish media already refers to 'Dutch situations'.
The chicken shed is close to a valuable nature reserve that is part of the network of Natura 2000-Gebieden. According to the judge, the Flemish livestock farmer cannot prove that the nature reserve will not be further affected by his expansion plans.
Since 80 percent of the Belgian Natura 2000 site ieden has to deal with too much nitrogen, Flanders has been violating the Habitat Directive for several years, according to the EU.
The Flemish newspaper De Standaard refers to the Netherlands, which also tried to circumvent the Habitat line with creative nitrogen accounting. However, this Dutch 'legal solution' was overturned by the European Court of Justice. As a result, 18,000 projects came to a standstill from one day to the next.
For nuisance act permits, Belgium is divided into three areas: red, orange and green zones. In red bieden environmental nuisance must be stopped and reduced, and in orange bieden nuisance must not increase.
In the green zones, farms wishing to increase their livestock numbers must indicate in an environmental impact report how much their nitrogen emissions will increase. This must be checked by independent experts.
An EIA report is only unnecessary if the expected nitrogen growth remains below five percent. The Board of Permit Disputes now rules that an investigation is always necessary, regardless of the expected increase. The threshold of five percent is not scientifically substantiated, according to the Council.
In a response, Flemish minister Zuhal Demir states that the exact consequences of the judgment are still being analyzed, but according to her it may not lead to a complete license freeze as was the case in the Netherlands.