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    Flemish plan to rein in new building meets court obstacle

    © Pxhere
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    © Pxhere

    Prospective home-owners have been rushing to obtain planning permission to build new houses before the Flemish government’s plan to stop all new construction comes into force, the papers report. However the plans have now been sent back to the drawing board. The government’s so-called betonstop would have made it illegal from 2040 to build new constructions on open land, with planning permission given only for renovations or for rebuilding on a site where buildings already stood.

    The measure was seen as an important tool in the fight for environmental protection. When housing developments are implanted on previously empty land, rainfall in that area is unable to run off into the earth, reducing the levels of groundwater.

    However the Council of State has ruled that the plan to introduce the betonstop are not sufficiently legislatively based, and cannot go ahead in their present form. With elections due in May, it is no longer possible for a new bill to be drawn up and passed through parliament in time. The entire package, therefore, will be handed on to the next legislature.

    According to the Council’s ruling, leaked to news agency Belga, the legal text “follows no logical structure and contains overlaps, gaps and material errors.”

    The betonstop was the work of former environment and nature minister Joke Schauvliege, who resigned last month after airing a conspiracy theory regarding the student movement against climate change. Her successor, Koen Van den Heuvel, even with this obstacle, the original 2040 deadline can still be met.

    In the meantime, since the measure was announced in 2016, landowners have been involved in a land-rush to obtain planning permission for new-builds, to squeeze in before the deadline given the lengthy procedures often involved. According to figures from Statbel, the federal office for statistics, there were 20,321 applications for planning permission in Flanders in the first 11 months of 2018, 40.6% more than in all of 2017. By contrast, applications in Wallonia were down 7%, and in Brussels – where there is admittedly less open land available – by 23%.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times