Air pollution, Permits, Administrative

A harbour was situated close to a strait, opposite a site in the Natura 2000 network. The distance between the harbour and the site was 150 to 400 meters. The harbour had been operated since he 1930s, and at the time it was running in accordance with an environmental permit granted in 2000 by the Environment Committee, the decision-making body of the Environment Centre.


In 2010, a new environmental permit for increased, and revised, activity had been granted. No assessment had been made of the effects that this could potentially have on the Natura 2000 site. When the permit was appealed, the court had to decide if an assessment with focus on the Natura 2000 site should have been made and if the case should therefore be remanded to the Regional State Administrative Agency.


The Supreme Administrative Court pointed out that the Assessment made for the previous permit as well as complementary assessments made in 2003 and 2004. These contained investigations of the effect of nitrogen and sulphur emissions on the surrounding environment. In relation to the local plan that was then established, it was considered that the emissions would not negatively affect the Natura 2000 site.


The new activities envisaged in the harbour differed slightly from the earlier activities, but the difference did not entail a significantly higher emission of sulphur and nitrogen.  Neither would the activities themselves amount to serious disturbances to the nature site. Thus, there had been no obligation to perform a new assessment.


In a preliminary assessment, the increased pressure on the Natura 2000 sites by the changes in activities at the harbour were, also with regard of the precautionary principle, estimated to be marginal. The Court excluded the possibility that the renewed permit would lead to any harmful effects to the nature-related value that the site was meant to protect. Due to the findings in the preliminary assessment, there was no indication for that a full assessment on the effects on the Natura 2000 site was required. Hence, the court saw no reason to remand the case to the Regional State Administrative Agency. Instead, the case was concluded in the Supreme Administrative Court.