Environment and Planning Act to speed up spatial projects

26 existing laws for space, housing, infrastructure, environment, nature, and water will soon come together in one new Environment and Planning Act (‘Omgevingswet’). This law should make it easier to check a spatial project against all rules at once. The new law will apply to entrepreneurs and private individuals and will take effect on 1 January 2024.

One of the acts that merges into the new law is the Building Decree ('Bouwbesluit’). The procedure for applying for a permit will be simpler and shorter. Merging so many laws into one is a complicated process. That is why the introduction of this law has already been postponed several times. What does the Environment and Planning Act mean for entrepreneurs? The main points at a glance:

Who does the Environment and Planning Act apply to?

You will have to deal with the Environment and Planning Act if you want to make some changes to the 'physical living environment' in the Netherlands. This includes, for example, buildings, roads, railways, water, environment, nature, spatial planning, or cultural heritage. The law applies to everyone: private individuals and entrepreneurs.

The Environment and Planning Act distinguishes between permit-free and activities that require a permit. To carry out an activity that requires a permit, you must apply for an all-in-one permit for physical aspects in advance. For carrying out a permit-free activity, you sometimes have to submit a notification in advance.

Through the Environment and Planning Act and its decrees, the government determines for which activities you need to apply for a permit. Each municipality makes its own environmental plan based on the Environment and Planning Act. This plan specifies the activities for which you need to apply for a permit. This may differ from one municipality to another.

Need a permit?

Once the new law takes effect, you can check with the new Omgevingsloket whether you need a permit for your plans. This website shows what is and what is not allowed in the living environment. If you want to apply for a permit or report a permit-free activity, you can use this point of contact. This new contact point replaces the Omgevingsloket Online (OLO), the Activities Decree Internet Module (Activiteitenbesluit Internet Module, AIM), and Ruimtelijkeplannen.nl. It is part of the Digitaal Stelsel Omgevingswet (DSO).

Application process

Before you apply for the permit through the new Omgevingsloket, 2 things are important:

  1. In some municipalities you can ask for advice first if you want to apply for a more complicated permit. You will have a better understanding of the conditions your application must meet and how best to submit it. Note that not all municipalities offer this option.
  2. You must contact the people in the neighbourhood who will be affected by the project you are asking a permit for. For example, local residents or neighbouring businesses. When you apply for the permit, you must indicate that you have done the necessary research and what the outcome was. This is called participation (‘participatie’). The municipality will not reject your application immediately if you have not done this research. But if you discuss your plans with your neighbours and local residents, it is less likely that they will object to your permit application.

Please note: When applying for a permit for activities that deviate from the Environment and Planning Act, a municipality may decide that participation is mandatory.

If you then submit your application via the new Omgevingsloket, you will receive a confirmation of receipt. This confirmation of receipt will state the day on which the application was received. In most cases, the decision period is 8 weeks from that day.

If your permit application is incomplete, you will be asked to add information to your application. The decision period then stops and only resumes once the additional information has been received.

The competent authority, such as the municipality, province, or water board, can extend the decision period one time by a maximum of 6 weeks. You will be notified of this within the decision period.

As soon as the decision on the permit application has been made, you will be informed. Those who have submitted an opinion during the preparation of the decision will also be notified of the decision. This also applies to involved advisers if the decision differs from their advice.

A granted permit takes effect the day after the day the decision is announced. A permit for an activity that cannot be reversed or corrected, such as felling a tree or demolishing a building, takes effect 4 weeks after the day of publication.

This is the 'short procedure'. This procedure is the starting point. In some cases, for example when modifying a national monument, an 'extensive procedure' applies. In that case, the competent authority decides on the permit application within 6 months.

Filing an objection

If you disagree with the decision, you can object to it or lodge an appeal. The decision will state by whom, within what period, and to which body you must do this.

Those who have submitted an opinion during the preparation of the decision or are involved in this as an adviser also have the opportunity to object to or appeal against the decision.

Disadvantage compensation

If you are disadvantaged or if damage is caused by a decision or measure, you may be eligible for compensation. This is possible if that decision:

  • contains directly effective rights and obligations for private individuals and companies.
  • has a direct effect on private individuals and companies by a change in the physical living environment.

Note: Only the causes of damage listed in the Environment and Planning Act can be compensated. Causes of damage include:

  • A provision in an environmental plan
  • An all-in-one permit for physical aspects
  • A project decision

There must be a reasonable connection between the damage and the cause of the damage. The damage must:

  • be the direct consequence of the decision or measure. For example, carrying out a construction project.
  • be the consequence of the actual implementation of the activity. For example, the establishment of a diversion route.
  • be the consequence of the activity, but the consequence only becomes apparent later.

Adjustment of existing rights may lead to direct damage. Implementation of activities in the surrounding area can lead to indirect damage. Shadow damage is damage caused by the announcement of a decision yet to be taken. Read more about disadvantage compensation (in Dutch) and the different types of damage on the website of the Environment Information Point (IPLO).