Last year, the Brussels Capital Region approved a major reform of the Brussels Code of Spatial Planning (BWRO). A limited number of reforms (in particular those relating to planning) immediately entered into force on 30 April 2018 (for these reforms we refer to our Newsflash of 2 May 2018). The second set of reforms were supposed to enter into force on 20 April 2019. Only certain amendments entered into force on that date. Indeed, due to the lack of executing decrees, the implementation of the reforms relating to permitting was postponed until 1 September 2019.

As from 1 September 2019, you will have to take into account the following procedural changes for a development project in the Brussels-Capital Region:

  • Various procedural deadline changes:
    • Depending on the opinions or studies to be requested or carried out, the decision period will be 75, 90 or 160 days from the date of the notification of the acknowledgement of receipt.
    • The nature of the decision term will change. The decision term will also no longer be an indicative term, but an expiration term. However, exceeding this period does not immediately result in a tacit refusal. In the first instance, the application shall be automatically brought before the so-called authorised official, who will have an additional 45 days to make a decision. If this period is also exceeded, the permit shall be deemed to be tacitly refused.
    • The check of the completeness and admissibility of the permit request will now take 45 days. Missing data must be delivered within an expiration term of six months.
  • The building permit will automatically expire if it is not executed within three (instead of two) years after it has been notified. The works may also not be interrupted for more than one year. However, a request for a one-year extension is possible in cases of force majeure or the need to conclude one or more public contracts.
  • The municipality will grant a simplified and automatic regularisation permit if the works requiring a permit were carried out without a permit before 1 January 2000, provided that such works are in accordance with past or present regulations and subject to a favourable opinion from the fire service.
  • The scope of a land subdivision permit shall be limited to works necessary to prepare extensive sites for construction. A land subdivision permit will from now on only be necessary when the division of a site entails the construction or the extension of a road which connects to one or more undeveloped parcels of which at least one is intended for residential development. When, however, the land subdivision has been foreseen in (preliminary) zoning plans, the land subdivision is exempted from the obligation to request a land subdivision permit.
  • For mixed projects (i.e. projects subject to both an environmental and a building permit) the different procedures will be better aligned. Both applications will be examined simultaneously by the authorised official (and not the college of mayor and aldermen or the government). A complete integration of both procedures as is the case of the Flemish Region and the Walloon Region is not (yet) the case.
  • The new enforcement rules will protect bona fide purchasers if there is an urban planning offence linked to the property. A buyer who was unaware that the previous owner was committing an urban planning offence will only be criminally liable if they consciously perpetrate the irregular acts.

We are happy to help if you have any questions about the above-mentioned changes in spatial planning, environment or surroundings.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.