Debate on the entry into force of the Environment and Planning Act – Senate of the States General

On Tuesday 28 June, the Senate debated with Minister De Jonge for Housing and Spatial Planning on the entry into force of the Environment and Planning Act. The background for the debate was a previous oral consultation that the Folketing’s Committee on Infrastructure, Water Management and the Environment (IWO) and for Economy and Climate / Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (EZK / LNV) had with the Minister. This addressed the Folketing’s concerns about, among other things, the Digital System Environment Act (DSO), the external implementation organizations and the preparation of those involved, such as provinces and municipalities.

The key question is whether the entry into force of the law on January 1, 2023 is justified or not. Minister De Jonge wants the law to enter into force on 1 January 2023 and had therefore asked the Senate to take a decision on the royal decree which he had submitted to him before 1 July.

However, there is a wish in the House that the ICT problems at the digital counter for environmental permits must first be resolved before the law can enter into force on 1 January. In October, among other things, the results of a study from the Advisory Board for ICT assessment are expected. This is the time when a majority in the House wants to make a final decision on the entry into force of the Environment and Planning Act. Therefore, there is still no vote on the draft royal decree on the entry into force of the Environment and Planning Act.

Three proposals were made in the first parliamentary term. The House will vote on this on Tuesday, July 5th.

Movements

A total of three proposals were submitted.

  • The Otten et al. Decision states that the basic principle is that the Environment and Planning Act will not be introduced on 1 January 2023. Minister De Jonge has advised against this proposal.

  • The proposal from Rietkerk et al. calls on the government to provide progress information from the inter-administrative program on performance, stability, integrated chain testing and temporary alternative measures in October, with the aim of informing the Senate of the results of the tests and improvements of the chain, thus organized to enter into force on January 1, 2023. Minister De Jonge handed over the judgment to Parliament on this proposal.

  • The proposal from Janssen et al. asks the government to immediately send the unvarnished version of the resolution note to the Senate so that this information can be included in the second period of the debate. This proposal was discouraged by Minister De Jonge.

Impressions of the debate on 28 June

Painted passage

Senator Janssen (SP) started the debate with a comment on the rules of procedure: Why were passages in the decision note that the minister had sent to the Folketing painted out? On the basis of Article 68 of the Constitution, which deals with the government’s obligation to inform Parliament, Parliament had the right to see the relevant passages. Minister De Jonge rejected because the sentences were about the political process. According to him, members of parliament in contact with the minister should also be able to count on confidentiality. This confidentiality is in Parliament’s interest.

No clarity

According to Senator Kluit (GroenLinks), the debate was proof that Parliament has learned nothing from the evaluations of the quota issue and from the nitrogen policy. Kluit pointed out that both municipalities and project developers signal that the current situation is unworkable. According to her, important advice from the ICT Advisory Board has not been followed, and the Council of State also finds the entry into force on 1 January very risky. Kluit therefore wonders whether it is still conceivable that the government in October will come to the conclusion that 1 January cannot be done?

Right at the doom

According to Senator Otten (Fractie-Otten), we are heading for disaster. Otten believes that the Environment and Planning Act is an unimaginable prestige project, and that the omission of texts from the decision memorandum is highly undesirable. According to Otten, the law leads to maximum uncertainty for citizens and great legal uncertainty also for companies.

January 2023 starting point

Senator Rietkerk (CDA) contributed to the debate on behalf of the groups VVD, Fractie-Nanninga, ChristenUnie, SGP, Forum for Demokrati, Frentrop, PVV and OSF. According to Rietkerk, the Environment and Planning Act can significantly shorten spatial procedures. The law also leads to better co-operation between governments, and the vast majority of the improvement measures recommended by the ICT Advisory Board have been implemented. He also referred to the support of the umbrella organizations in municipalities, provinces and water councils for the date of entry into force on 1 January 2023 and to the possibility of continuing to use the existing systems when the law enters into force. According to Rietkerk, the date of 1 January must continue to be the starting point for the law to enter into force, so that governments can organize preparations for it and implementation is not delayed. According to him, environmental services, water councils and municipalities want clarity. Rietkerk pointed out the importance of a recommendation that the ICT Advisory Board (AcICT) will issue in October 2022 with a view to coming into force on 1 January 2023. He also asked the Minister in October to provide an overview of progress information on performance. stability, integrated supply chain testing and temporary alternative measures.

Warning Minister

Senator Janssen (SP) quoted the warning from the Council of State that housing construction, energy conversion and the nitrogen target are all in danger if the law enters into force soon. According to Janssen, citizens’ participation in cases is being stripped. He also once again condemned the omission of passages in decision notes. According to Janssen, they must be shared with the House so that decision-making can be traced.

Clarity in early October

Senator Fiers (PVDA) praised Parliament’s unanimous agreement to seek opinions from ICT experts prior to final decision-making. The movement of Rietkerk et al. however, did not lead to clarity, she said. According to Fiers, it can only come in October. According to her, many supporters and opponents of the law claim that this proposal creates further uncertainty about the date of implementation. Fiers further emphasized that she not only wanted to talk to the umbrella organizations about the implementation, but really to the people working with it in practice.

‘Postpone it a year’

Senator Nicolai (PvdD) criticized the omission of passages from the resolution memo and asked if his colleagues in the Chamber could not simply state that they had no problem lifting the confidentiality. Nicolai asked the Minister to explicitly involve people who will be working with the law in practice and inquire into their experiences by reporting on the preparations for the entry into force on 1 January. Nicolai also referred to the umbrella organization for project developers, Neprom, which according to him is also asking for a one-year postponement. He also wonders what shows that civil servants can work with so-called temporary alternative measures, and why the Minister sees the Council of State differently, that the introduction from 1 January is risky.

‘Movement confusing and unnecessary’

The Minister is aware of the information he will provide in October. An ICT test and an overview of all relevant progress information. This was stated by Senator Moonen (D66), who said he supported the minister and wanted to leave the date of 1 January. The proposal from Rietkerk et al. could not, however, count on its support. According to her, the proposal is confusing and unnecessary in light of the letter from the minister. According to Moonen, all balls must now be on the show.

Response to Minister De Jonge for Housing and Spatial Planning

Minister De Jonge said the law is in fact “broken”. According to the minister, the Netherlands now has a complicated and unclear system and the procedures are taking too long. The Minister referred to the very large majority of both chambers that support the Environment Act and the Implementation Act. He understood that after testing the quality of the legislation, Parliament is now at the top of the implementation. According to De Jonge, however, timely care also means giving the municipalities clarity so that they know where they stand. Without a clear date, you lose power and energy, according to De Jonge. The Minister agreed that the area development must proceed smoothly and that permits for citizens and companies must be given properly. He promised to return to Parliament in October with all the requested advice (such as on ICT) and with the results of so-called ‘integrated chain tests’. De Jonge agreed that if it does not work well in October, he will be the first to say that January 1 is not possible.

With regard to participation and appeal in environmental proceedings, the Minister stated that the rights are unequally distributed. According to him, people who do not want anything, see their rights much better protected than people who want a house that is not built because of all the objections. It touches on the responsibility of people who depend on support to get a roof over their heads.

The Minister maintained his refusal to make public the passages from the resolution note that had been painted out. Even if the MPs mentioned in these passages would not object. In doing so, he would “set a precedent.” Revealing the statement from MPs ‘is not up to me’, the minister said. Well enough, the minister promised to send a letter to the House in consultation with his colleagues in the Cabinet no later than Monday, July 4, on how to deal with painted passages. De Jonge is afraid that if it becomes customary not to paint certain passages off, they will no longer be written down in the long run. The question is whether Parliament would then be better informed.

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