Adjustments to the measures of Natura 2000 areas

09 December 2020

The government aims to have at least half of the nature in protected Natura 2000 areas at a healthy nitrogen level by 2030. A large part of the solution to the nitrogen problem lies in strong nature. At the moment, this nature is overloaded with nitrogen. To reduce this tax, this requires commitment from every sector, including the Earthmoving Service.

On 29 May 2019, the Supreme Administrative Court decided that the Nitrogen Approach Program (PAS) may not be used as a basis for granting permission for activities that lead to an increase in nitrogen at the location of nitrogen-sensitive habitat types and species in Natura 2000 areas. This decision has consequences for spatial developments, such as housing, the construction of infrastructure (including waterways, railways and highways), the construction of new companies and agricultural activities that can lead to an increase in nitrogen deposition.

Because the PAS may no longer be used as a basis for granting permission for activities and plans that can lead to nitrogen emissions, it has become a lot more complicated to enable and realize these spatial developments that lead to an increase in nitrogen deposition in kind. 2000 areas.

Housing plans (including small-scale housing plans) can lead to an increase in nitrogen deposition. This increase may be the result of construction work in the construction phase (for example, as a result of the supply of construction materials to and earthmoving on the construction site). The use of the homes (the occupancy phase) can also lead to an increase. This increase can be the result of, for example, the use of gas, the car traffic of residents and visitors to the homes.

The government is now preparing a zoning plan that will make housing possible. For housing projects that can cause nitrogen deposition on Natura 2000 areas, it is advisable to consider project measures to reduce nitrogen deposition already during the plan development. When preparing a zoning plan that makes the construction of homes possible, a 'preliminary assessment' must then be carried out.

A preliminary test is an ecological examination. In a preliminary assessment, the question must be answered whether on the basis of objective data it can be excluded in advance that a plan or project on its own or in combination with other plans or projects may have negative effects on sensitive habitat types in Natura 2000 areas in view of nitrogen emissions. The preliminary assessment includes a description of the plan, the expected effects on all relevant Natura 2000 areas and an analysis of whether there may be significant negative or positive effects.

Furthermore, it goes without saying that if there is too much risk for the habitat types, the work will not go ahead. If it is already clear in advance that the developments made possible by the zoning plan will lead to an increase in nitrogen deposition on a Natura 2000 site, the preliminary assessment can be skipped and an appropriate assessment can be made directly (and the related environmental impact report; see Article 7.2a of the Environmental Management Act).

AERIUS Calculator
Many people use the AERIUS Calculator. Based on the entered data, this calculates the expected nitrogen deposition on a nitrogen-sensitive habitat in a Natura 2000 site that is included in the programme. In the rulings of 29 May 2019, the administrative court did not rule that AERIUS is not (or no longer) usable. However, the administrative court has indicated that AERIUS is not or less suitable for deposition calculations at a short distance from the source. Under certain circumstances it may therefore be necessary to perform additional calculations or have them performed.

There is also no threshold value for the increase in nitrogen deposition or a distance from a Natura 2000 site that can be used as a justification that significant negative consequences can be excluded in advance. This also means that the threshold value of 0.05 mol/ha/yr used under the PAS assessment framework is no longer usable.

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