It is important to remember that public authorities must organise public participation prior to authorisation of an entire series of industrial activities. Exercising the right to participate is regulated in the Convention both in terms of the participation procedure and the appeals lodged for failure to respect procedures.

When is this possible?

The breaches in question concern both respect for the procedures (participation was not organised or not in the proper way) and the decisions themselves (”the basis”).

Who can take action?

It is necessary to have sufficient interest to be able to take action or claim a breach of a right to participate.

Where should you enquire?

Each Region in Belgium has created administrative appeal bodies within the framework of their authorisation procedures.

It is also possible to appeal to the Council of State to request the repeal of a decision made without authority.

More information?

  • Article 9.2 of the Convention
  • Example 1:

    A suspension action brought before the president of the district court against agricultural pollution

    A cattle farmer regularly kept several hundred heads of cattle in his cowshed. The slurry from this cowshed ran into a neighbouring property. The breeder did not have the required authorisation and had not constructed any sort of drainage system to prevent this flow. The Public Prosecutor and the commune concerned therefore took legal action to request a stop to the pollution. The president of the district court considered that even though the pollution was irregular, low in volume and only concerned a number of neighbours, it was, nevertheless, an offence against the environment.

  • Example 2:

    A Council of State decision

    An environmental protection association made an urgent appeal to the Council of State with a view to obtaining the suspension of a decision made by a communal authority. The decision authorised the detonation of mines to destroy a cliff that threatened to collapse according to the communal authority. The Council of State complied with the applicant’s request, basing itself on the argument that the destruction of the cliff, a protected natural site, contravened a provision in the regional code for town and country planning defining the notion of natural area and limiting any activities that may be carried out there to protection of the preserved biotope. The envisaged destruction would have constituted irreparable damage according to the Council of State.

  • Example 3:

    Criminal action taken by an environmental association

    A regional anti-poaching unit was behind the arrest of a persistent offender who was in the habit of setting traps, i.e. nets, to capture protected species of birds. This intervention led to the confiscation of the poacher’s vehicle (used for the illegal transport of birds) while the public prosecutor’s office authorised a search warrant for the poacher's home. The birds held in his aviaries were seized. Subsequently, a bird protection association instituted an action before the public prosecutor’s office, taking civil action in a case that fell under criminal court jurisdiction.

  • Example 4:

    A suspension action brought before the president of the district court against agricultural pollution

    A cattle farmer regularly kept several hundred heads of cattle in his cowshed. The slurry from this cowshed ran into a neighbouring property. The breeder did not have the required authorisation and had not constructed any sort of drainage system to prevent this flow. The Public Prosecutor and the commune concerned therefore took legal action to request a stop to the pollution. The president of the district court considered that even though the pollution was irregular, low in volume and only concerned a number of neighbours, it was, nevertheless, an offence against the environment.