How does this law represent an advance on Federal Belgian law? It has three obvious advantages: the assessment of the effects in overall terms, the inclusion of environmental considerations from the time of preparing the plan or programme, and public consultation.
Assessment of the impact in overall terms
Plans and programmes are sets of planning measures within which specific projects are situated. The potential environmental impact is studied at the general level. This enables a number of alternatives to be considered and ensures as comprehensive an understanding as possible of the impacts, which is not the case when impacts are studied project by project. The fact that concern for the environment is included directly in the strategic phase of a plan thus ensures that it is treated as a key factor which is inseparable from the plan’s implementation. In other words, it is no longer perceived as trivial or incidental to the plan.
The inclusion of environmental considerations from the time of preparing the plan or programme
In other words, from the time of strategy definition which provides the overall structure for the various projects before each individual project is studied one by one. This involvement at an early stage in the formation of the plan or programme means that the conclusions of the environmental report can really be taken into account and the project modified if this proves necessary. Right from the initial phases, the application of the environmental report will thus enable the environment to be protected as effectively as possible. In the context of the construction of a new section of the rail network, for example, the different routes might be considered in the light of noise nuisance or their impact on the flora and fauna. These factors, combined with others, will influence the choice of routes before the first station renovation or track-laying activity has even been considered.
The public will be able to inspect and express their views on the environmental report.