REALWorld Law

Planning / zoning

Controls on specific new construction and refurbishment

Does public law control whether a landowner may construct a new building or refurbish an existing building on its land?

Belgium

Belgium

Public law does control the construction of new buildings or the refurbishment of an existing building of a landowner on its land, by zoning plans and permits.

In the Flanders Region, the Flemish Public Planning Code forbids the construction of a new building without a single environmental permit for building. This permit is granted most of the time by the municipal council of the area in which the real estate is situated, by application made by the landowner primarily. The municipal council investigates the compatibility of the type of building with the type of zone (eg rural or industrial, habitation) that is indicated by the zoning plans. Zoning plans are plans that define the “destination” and the applicable building policies (eg height of buildings, materials, distance to the street) of the zone, that is covered by them. The planning requirements in zoning plans vary in their level of detail.

If a building is constructed without the necessary permit, the landowner risks criminal prosecution and possibly an order to demolish the building. For refurbishment works, a permit is not always necessary. A building permit is only necessary when these works are not qualified as “normal maintenance works”, for example, works regarding “constructive elements” of the building are not maintenance works.

In the Brussels Capital Region, the Brussels Code regarding public planning provides for a similar regime. A building permit, granted by the competent municipal council, is primarily always necessary for the construction of new buildings. If a building is constructed without the necessary permit, the landowner risks criminal prosecution and possibly an order to demolish the building. For refurbishment works, a building permit is only required when the works are not qualified as "maintenance works". This is a concept that is specified by case law.

In the Walloon Region, the Code for Territorial Development provides for a very similar regime to the Brussels Capital Region. The rules regarding the application for a permit and the sanction regime and refurbishment works are practically the same. Maintenance works generally only require a building permit when they affect the structure of the building, its volume or “architectural aspects” of the building.