Permits, Administrative

The Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment had dismissed an application for a permit by a town to be granted an exception from Section 49 of the Nature Conservation Act. The provision in question concerns the protection of the breeding sites and resting places of the endangered species, the northern bat. The town wanted the permit to be able to demolish a building from 1951 owned by the town in habited by northern bats. The town wanted to, in accordance with the local plan, use the area for a


The Administrative Court followed the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment and dismissed the appeal of the town. The town then appealed the case to the Supreme Administrative Court.


Central to the assessment by the Supreme Administrative Court was the EU legislation governing the situation. According to EU law, Finland has certain obligations to protect endangered species. Thus the Court in its evaluation had to consider the intentions and objectives of the relevant provisions.


Neither EU law nor domestic Finnish law define the breeding sites and resting places. Moreover, neither of them identifies more exact interpretations of the terms. However, it is seen as clear that the protection of these areas is supposed to be strong. Thus, the argument that a site where humans lived or had lived could not rule out that the site was also considered a breeding site or resting place for an endangered species in the meaning of the law. Such an interpretation would not be compatible with the objectives of the legislation, which is to provide a strong protection for the northern bat and other species considered as important by society.


EU legislation contains grounds on which it is possible to provide exceptions from the duty to protect the species contained in EU law. The most important provision is Article 16 of the Habitats Directive, which has been implemented into Finnish legislation through Section 49 of the Act on the Nature Conservation Act. In order to grant an exception from this provision, all conditions of the Habitats Directive must be fulfilled.

In this case, the application was rejected because there were proposals for alternatives for the building. These included for example using the building for providing information on nature and the environment. Because there were viable alternatives for the use of the building that did not necessitate demolishing it and destroying the valuable site, the Supreme Court did not grant an exception from the prohibition of disturbing the breeding site and resting place for the northern bats. No permit for the demolition was therefore given.