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The 2017 Dutch Nature Conservation Act (Wet natuurbescherming, Wnb) protects nature reserves as well as certain plants and animals. Work activities may not cause damage to areas or species under its protection. The Act is a result of the Dutch government’s goal to maintain biodiversity.
Do you need to work in protected areas in the Netherlands? In some cases you will need an All-in one Permit for Physical Aspects. In other cases you need to apply for a dispensation or exemption with your provincial authority. Alternatively, you can obtain an exemption if you work according to an approved code of conduct nature conservancy (gedragscode natuurbescherming).
All-in one Permit for Physical Aspects
If you need to carry out work, you apply for an All-in one Permit for Physical Aspects (Omgevingsvergunning) to the municipal authority (in Dutch) in which you intend to work. They assess whether the activity is allowed under the Nature Conservation Act. If the municipal authority decides your work activities present a risk to nature, you need to apply for dispensation or an exemption instead.
Dispensation or exemption
You can apply for dispensation or an exemption (in Dutch) with the provincial authority (in Dutch). A dispensation means that an exception is made to the rules for this particular activity. An environmental expert (in Dutch) will help you determine if protected plants or animal species are located in the area and how to prevent damage to their habitat. The environmental expert can also assist you with the application for dispensation.
If you work according to an approved code of conduct under the Nature Conservation Act you can be exempted. In this case, you do not need dispensation. Exemptions typically apply to predictable or recurring activities, such as greenery maintenance.
Working with a code of conduct
A code of conduct nature conservancy (in Dutch) prescribes procedures and working methods to prevent damage to ecosystems in accordance with the Nature Conservation Act. Approved codes of conduct are valid throughout the Netherlands. In general a code of conduct is drawn up for a specific sector or area. They allow organisations within that sector or area to more easily apply for an exemption. A code of conduct must be approved by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). The provincial authority is responsible for the monitoring and enforcing of the code’s procedures and working methods.
If you want to work with a code of conduct, you can check if there is an approved code of conduct (in Dutch). You need to prove you follow the guidelines and meet the conditions laid down in the code of conduct to receive an exemption. Once you receive an exemption, you do not need to reapply for future activities.
Drawing up and approval of a Code of Conduct
If no approved code of conduct is available for your purposes, you can draw one up yourself. Sectors, organisations or trade associations may draw up a code of conduct. Contact the RVO for more information on the procedure (in Dutch). The RVO has to approve your Code of Conduct before you can use it.