Flemish municipalities unable to cope with more complex permitting
Flanders' municipalities are unable to acquire sufficient expertise in spatial planning. This is evident from a study by Ghent University, commissioned by the department of the Environment, De Tijd reported on Thursday.
According to the study, 94 per cent of local environmental officials indicate that they "often" or "always" find the workload too high and in more than three-quarters of municipalities, the pressure is too high for more than half of the staff.
The main cause of the increasing workload lies in the complexity of demands (98 per cent) and regulations (95 per cent). High expectations and contacts with residents and project developers are also important. In addition, the lack of staff plays a major role.
This translates into a high turnover. Nearly half of the environmental services in Flanders have recently been confronted with a high outflow of staff, resulting in a significant loss of knowledge and general expertise. In addition, almost half of local authorities rarely or never succeed in filling vacancies properly.
Cities and municipalities are increasingly turning to external parties, such as consultants, to fill open positions, which is expensive and often only temporarily improves the service.
According to the study, there is a direct link between difficulties for local environmental officials and the size of the municipality. The pressure is significantly higher in smaller cities and municipalities. More cooperation between municipalities could provide a solution. The Flemish government encourages mergers between municipalities, but this is often countered with protests at the local level, because people identify strongly with their municipality.
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