Gov't promises quick permit process for small construction projects

The government wants to soon implement a quicker permit process for small- and medium sized construction projects, in which no more than 200 homes are built. This measure is part of a structural plan to get housing construction going again after the nitrogen crisis and a new PFAS limit brought hundreds of projects to a standstill. Minister Carola Schouten of Agriculture hopes to get the green light from the Council of State within a few weeks, she said to NOS.

Schouten said that the government wants to do something about the construction standstill "within a few weeks", according to the broadcaster. She is responsible for coordinating the nitrogen measures taken by the central and provincial governments, and as such she went to talk to construction workers protesting against these measures in The Hague on Wednesday.

The Minister emphasized that the country is "not on lock down" and that the government is working hard on measures to get the sector up and running again. One of these measures is the so-called threshold value, which means that smaller construction projects that emit less nitrogen can obtain a permit more quickly.

'We feel the same urgency that the demonstrators feel", Schouten said to NOS. On the one hand there is the uncertainty around whether halted construction projects can continue as a result of the nitrogen crisis, and on the other hand the Netherlands is dealing with a housing shortage. According to Schouten, the government therefore decided that all nitrogen measures taken must partly focus on getting housing construction started again. 

The nitrogen crisis refers to the Council of State declaring the Nitrogen Approach Program invalid earlier this year. This program allowed governments to compensate for nitrogen released with new construction projects at a later date. Now no new projects can be approved if nitrogen emissions aren't reduced elsewhere to compensate for the emissions of the new project. This brought hundreds of construction projects to a standstill and municipalities are still hesitant to issue new permits. 

Political reporter Zander van der Wulp told NOS that the government promises are "still very vague". According to him, it looks like the government is working "on two tracks". On the one hand is structural measures that must be taken to get construction going again. On the other hand, there are rumors of an emergency plan with which temporary work time reduction can be requested for construction workers for whom there is currently no work, he said. This emergency plan, to which the government is allocating up to 200 million euros according to Van der Wulp, should come into effect if there is no solution for the construction halt by the end of the year. "And that chance is quite big", he said.

Minister Schouten told NOS that there is no such emergency plan. "The government does not have a plan for working time reduction or whatever. We are fully committed to ensuring that construction can continue."

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