The Zoning Plans and Management Bylaws (Update Obligation) Act came into force on 1 July 2018. The Royal Decree announcing this was published in the Bulletin of Acts, Orders and Decrees [Staatsblad] on 28 June 2018. Both the Dutch House of Representatives and the Dutch Senate had previously passed the legislation as a formality.
The Act – the proposal for which was already submitted to the House of Representatives on 26 January 2017 – was prompted by the advent of the Environment and Planning Act [Omgevingswet], which is expected to enter into force in 2021. That legislation requires municipalities to combine their zoning plans, management bylaws, and other regulations regarding the physical environment that are contained in other bylaws, and to transform them into a single, coherent, and consistent environment plan [omgevingsplan]. In the Explanatory Memorandum accompanying the new Act, the minister acknowledges that this represents a considerable challenge. According to the Minister, abolishing the updating obligation for zoning plans and management bylaws will free up administrative capacity so that in the run-up to the Environment and Planning Act municipalities can already start preparing for its effects. A study carried out by the Environment and Planning Act monitor showed that approximately two-thirds of the 68% of municipalities that were covered are already in the process of drawing up an environmental strategy [omgevingsvisie] and that ten percent of them have in fact already adopted such a strategy. In addition, a third of those municipalities are preparing an environmental plan. Abolishing the generic obligation for municipalities to re-adopt a zoning plan every ten years will therefore make it possible to work towards an environmental plan sooner than ten years after the Environmental and Planning Act comes into force. On balance, this will also enable municipalities to meet the digital requirements of the new system sooner. That will allow the zoning plan to be integrated sooner into the broader system of the environmental plan, which is subject to different requirements and new digital standards.
Consequences and scope
The entry into force of the Zoning Plans and Management Bylaws (Update Obligation) Act means that municipalities are no longer obliged to re adopt zoning plans within the ten-year period. However, the obligation to update has not been abolished for all zoning plans and management bylaws. In order to make the applicable zoning scheme known to individuals and businesses, the Act applies only to plans and bylaws that can be consulted electronically (at www.ruimtelijkeplannen.nl). That means the following plans:
• plans that have been adopted digitally on the basis of the Spatial Planning Act [Wet ruimtelijke ordening, “Wro”] in accordance with the standards prescribed in the Spatial Planning Decree [Besluit ruimtelijke ordening, “Bro”];
• plans adopted in accordance with an older standard which was not prescribed at the time but which was nevertheless used and which makes those plans available for consultation in a similar manner; and
• plans that have not yet been drawn up in accordance with digital standards but a scanned version of which has been made available at www.ruimtelijkeplannen.nl.
For the other plans, the obligation to update will continue to apply until the entry into force of the Environmental and Planning Act (which no longer includes an obligation to update).
As a result of the abolition of the obligation to update, the penalties that used to apply to failing to update zoning plans and management bylaws on time – namely the loss of authority to collect official fees and publication of the fact that the deadline has been exceeded – have also been abolished.
Abolition of the obligation to update does not alter the possibility for municipalities, whether or not upon request, to amend zoning plans in connection with a new development (i.e. a development desired by an applicant). It will also remain possible to appeal against dismissal of an application for adoption of a new zoning plan with a view to making a new development possible. This also applies to those who have an interest in a proposed amendment to a zoning plan for which the municipal authorities will not continue a procedure that has already been initiated due to the abolition of the obligation to update. Abolition of the obligation does not, therefore, alter the position of interested parties.
Do not hesitate to contact us if you would like more information about the Environment and Planning Act or advice regarding the (potential) consequences for you of the entry into force of that legislation or the abolition of the obligation to update zoning plans and management bylaws.