Limburg appeals in cases of incomplete nature permits

In an appeal from the province of Limburg, the Council of State must assess whether nineteen Limburg livestock farmers have not been rightfully prosecuted for grazing and fertilizing their land without a nature permit.

The environmental organization MOB previously demanded that the province crack down on livestock farmers because they were working without nature permits. The province refused, but the court in Roermond was not satisfied.

With a fine, the province was ordered to require livestock farmers to apply for an amended nature permit. The province recognized that the livestock farmers did not have a permit for grazing and fertilizing, and that it had to be investigated on a case-by-case basis whether such a permit was required. It hadn’t happened.

Unnecessary research

The province has now investigated the situation of the nineteen livestock farmers and has decided that no nature permit is required because there is no increase in nitrogen through grazing and fertilising. Still, the province has appealed to the Council of State because the MOB’s request for enforcement is unnecessary and requires a lot of work. Provincial officials are overburdened. “There are still fifty enforcement requests from the MOB with the province,” the lawyer said.

In that study, the province took over the ranchers’ existing rights at the earliest point when the protected natural areas were designated. Grazing and fertilizing are permitted on all their plots according to the zoning plan in force at all times, says the lawyer.

Recent ruling from the Council of State

Thus, the province is in line with a recent decision by the council, where an old zoning plan can be taken as a benchmark for existing rights. What the actual situation was at the time, the advice is irrelevant. According to MOB, this statement leads to absurd situations. For example, one of the livestock farmer’s plots at the benchmark was no longer a pasture at all, but a business park.

Nevertheless, the council’s ruling gives the farmer the right to fertilise. According to the province, this is justified because the agricultural destination under the so-called transitional law appears to still exist for this business park. The Council must assess whether this is possible and whether its own recent decision may need to be changed.

reservoir of latent space

If it’s up to the MOB, this should definitely happen. “The recent ruling creates a huge reservoir of latent space,” says spokesman Valentijn Wösten. According to him, the standard in the Fertilizer Act for the application of manure is very broad, and it is not fully utilized on many plots. The unused portion can be passed on to others.

MOB therefore requires the provinces to know how much manure is actually spread and what nitrogen emissions it produces. ‘You have absolutely no insight into the amount of fertilizer that is actually spread,’ says Wösten. The province is dependent on compliance with the standards in the Fertilizer Act.

Outsiders

According to the MOB, now only the Dutch Food and Consumer Safety Authority can supervise compliance with the Fertilizer Act, which allocates fixed amounts of emissions to plots. Outsiders cannot access it, nor is the province competent when it comes to the Fertilizer Act.

According to MOB, this is the result of the council’s recent ruling that allows fertilization if there are existing rights, and what actually happens is not taken into account. “With the recent ruling, enforcement has almost completely become a fairy tale,” says Wösten.

Payment not in order

According to a spokesman for the province, existing rights can only be respected. Withdrawal is excluded. The province also says it sees no reason for livestock not to comply with the fertilizer standard. The board will make its decision in a few months.

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