Council of State partially suspends the Regional Land Use Plan concerning Antwerp port development

Council of State partially suspends the Regional Land Use Plan concerning Antwerp port development

In a decision of 20 November 2015, the Council of State suspended parts of the gewestelijk ruimtelijk uitvoeringsplan [GRUP = regional land use plan] "Delineation of the Antwerp seaport zone, Left Bank port development" (decision no. 233.000).

The suspension came at the request of the inhabitants of the endangered polder village Doel. They feared that the implementation of the GRUP would destroy a substantial part of their living community, given several impending expropriations and the demolition of a number of houses. The Council concluded that the inhabitants of Doel did indeed demonstrate that the situation is so urgent that "there is a risk of a definitive loss of their living community", and for this reason the part of the GRUP relating to the entire "Saeftinghedokzone", where Doel is located, was suspended.

Concerning the GRUP "Delineation of Antwerp seaport zone", the Council of State already this summer referred a question for a preliminary ruling to the European Court of Justice (on this see our newsletter of 31 July 2015).

More specifically, the Council submitted to the Court of Justice the question whether the phasing technique that the Flemish Government uses in the GRUP is compatible with the "habitat test" in the European Habitats Directive. This technique consists in the fact that the actual urban development of the port area could only take place after the establishment of a sustainable natural habitat over the entire "natural core area", such as this is necessary for the maintenance of the special protection area involved.

Although the Court of Justice for the moment still hasn´t ruled on the question referred for a preliminary ruling, the Council of State in its decision of 20 November 2015 has now provisionally, within the framework of a suspension proceeding, accepted that the phasing technique in the GRUP appears to violate European law.         

For more information about this topic, you can consult Barbara Bastiaensen and Kristof Hectors (authors).