This is one of the very important stages of the law. During the assessment, public consultation is organised about the draft plan or programme as well as about the environmental report. The opinion of members of the public is taken into account in the decision-making process. The authority which has prepared the plan or programme, once the plan or programme has been decided on, then provides feedback to the public, indicating how it has taken into account or disregarded the opinions that have been submitted to it. This legal obligation derives from the requirements of the Aarhus convention (WEB).
There are a number of prerequisites for this public participation. The public must be informed about the plan, about the process by which it is being devised, about its contents and about its progress.
Will that mean that everyone is aware of the plans and programmes being implemented?
In principle, yes. The law in Belgium allows for public participation through the provision of information via the Moniteur belge, on the federal portal and by any other means of communication chosen by the authority which has prepared the plan. The objective of the provision of information to the public is to involve them in the process of developing the plan. Thus, reasonable deadlines (sixty days, with a break between 15 July and 15 August) will enable the public to gain information and take an active part if it wishes throughout the decision-making process.
The view of members of the public
§ 1. The authority preparing the plan or programme shall submit the draft plan or programme, accompanied by an environmental report where required under Article 9, for public consultation. To this end, a public consultation shall be announced, no later than two weeks before its start, by the publication of a notice in the Moniteur belge, on the federal portal or by any other means of communication chosen by the authority.
The public consultation shall last sixty days and shall be suspended between 15 July and 15 August. The notice in the Moniteur belge shall specify the start and end dates of the public consultation and the practical arrangements to enable the public to submit their views and comments.
Comments and views shall be addressed to the authority preparing the plan or programme within the time period of the consultation by post or by electronic means.
§ 2. The King may determine by decree, after deliberation in the Council of Ministers, additional arrangements for the public consultation so as to publicise the draft plan or programme and the environmental report as widely as possible.