Flemish environment minister Zuhal Demir (N-VA) has warned that the cost of land bought for housing will not be compensated if permission is refused because of flooding danger.
Following flooding in parts of Flanders last month, Demir, the region’s environment minister, called for local authorities not to grant planning permission for new housing in areas likely to be affected by flooding. And she even made it clear she would appeal any decision by a local authority which ignored her instruction.
This raises questions regarding the effect of that measure on people who may have bought land for construction: is their land now worthless?
The issue was raised on VRT news by Guido De Padt (Open VLD), mayor of Geraardsbergen in East Flanders, himself formerly federal Home Affairs minister for a brief period.
"If owners have to be compensated because they are no longer allowed to build on their building land - it could cost billions in compensation," he said.
But as far as Demir is concerned, there is no question of compensation.
“You must properly compensate an owner whose property you take away,” she said.
“An owner whose piece of building land is suddenly designated as natural land too. But refusal of planning permission is a completely different story and has nothing to do with money.”
Planning permission is only ever granted if the plans are approved on legal, planning and technical grounds. Refusal by local authorities is a matter of course.
“That is never accompanied by a cheque for the applicant whose plans have been refused,” Demir said. “If the Limburg deputation refuses a permit for a gas-fired power station, it must not pay the company any compensation.”
Local authorities who are worried about the cost of refusing planning permission in flood areas are confusing this issue with the compensation normally due when ground designated for planning sees a change of use to nature or farming land, sometimes known as planning blight.