Thousands of Companies Threatened by Strict Environmental Rules
THE HAGUE, 26/10/13 - Government authorities are setting absurd environmental requirements within the framework of the Natura 2000 programme. In the province of Gelderland alone, the continued existence of 3,450 companies is under threat, says employer organisation VNO-NCW.
Brick-making plants have been based in Gelderland for over 100 years. But targets formulated just now by the province mean that they will have to produce massive research reports for tens of thousands of euros, in order to demonstrate that their activities do not disturb the plants and animals in the environment.
"On top of this, the requirements are so stringent that in practice, it is almost impossible to comply with them,” says Gijs Sigmond of the Oppervlaktedelfstoffenwinnende Industrieën (surface mining industries) Federation to which the brick-making plants are affiliated.
"There is, for example, a noise ceiling that a company is not allowed to exceed, so that a broody bird is not disturbed. But this ceiling is very low. A passing car makes more noise.”
The brick-making plants are not alone in their concern. According to Rob Oostermeijer of VNO-NCW, 3,450 companies in the province are facing the same problem. “For these companies, the question is whether they will be able to continue their activities in the future.”
In the Netherlands, some 160 Natura 2000 areas where biodiversity takes precedence have been designated by the economic affairs ministry in the past years. Provinces are currently drawing up management plans for each area. The province of Gelderland, where 30 percent of the total area of Natura 2000 locations are to be found, is a test case for other provinces, according to Oostermeijer.
Not only are the rules much too stringent, he says, but employers will also be hit by the fact that the companies themselves have to investigate whether they comply with them.
"The burden of proof will in the worst case be imposed on companies with retrospective effect for 13 years,” says Oostermeijer. "This is inexplicable to companies.” He added that some companies are considering relocating their operations to other countries.
Companies also criticise the fact that for any expansion, they have to apply for a new permit. Erik Droogh of RGV, a sector organisation for recreation companies, gives an example in practice. “At one in Ermelop, no water-skiing stretch has been added because the company had to prove that no birds would fly against the masts. As a businessman, you become completely crazy from these things.”