Permits and legislation
A sustainable balance between a healthy marine environment and human activities at sea is crucial to protect and, where necessary, restore existing biodiversity. Therefore, for every major human activity at sea, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) must be drawn up.
This EIA maps out the possible environmental consequences of a plan, activity or project and can form the basis for an environmental permit. In the Belgian part of the North Sea, a number of laws are in force which stipulate that certain activities such as wind farms, sand and gravel extraction and commercial and industrial activities require a permit before they can be carried out.
Projects or plans that may affect one or more Natura 2000 areas must have a Natura 2000 permit. This Natura 2000 permit can only be granted on the basis of an appropriate assessment (according to the Royal Decree of 27 October 2016 on the procedure for the designation and management of marine protected areas).
In order to obtain the Natura 2000 designation, a number of steps have to be taken. The initiator of the plan or project must submit an appropriate assessment to the Management Unit of the Mathematical Model of the North Sea (MUMM), which then submits a version to the Minister. If it is unclear whether a Natura 2000 permit is required for a plan or project, the initiator can ask MUMM for advice. If significant negative effects cannot be excluded, alternative solutions must be sought. In the absence of non-harmful alternatives, the project cannot be carried out unless there are "compelling reasons of public interest". More information can be found in the folder 'Appropriate assessment of plans and projects in the Belgian part of the North Sea'.