On 7 November 2018 the CJEU gave judgment in Joined Cases C-293/17 and C-294/17, Coöperatie Mobilisation for the Environment UA, Vereniging Leefmilieu V College van gedeputeerde staten van Limburg and Stichting Werkgroep Behoud de Peel v College van gedeputeerde staten van Noord-Brabant.

The case concerned authorisations for schemes for schemes for agricultural activities in sites protected by the Habitats Directive and where nitrogen deposition levels already exceeded the critical load.

It is a long one but the “highlights” include:

“1. Article 6(3) of Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora must be interpreted as meaning that the grazing of cattle and the application of fertilisers on the surface of land or below its surface in the vicinity of Natura 2000 sites may be classified as a ‘project’ within the meaning of that provision, even if those activities, in so far as they are not a physical intervention in the natural surroundings, do not constitute a ‘project’ within the meaning of Article 1(2)(a) of Directive 2011/92/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment.

  1. Article 6(3) of Directive 92/43 must be interpreted as meaning that a recurring activity, such as the application of fertilisers on the surface of land or below its surface, authorised under national law before the entry into force of that directive, may be regarded as one and the same project for the purposes of that provision, exempted from a new authorisation procedure, in so far as it constitutes a single operation characterised by a common purpose, continuity and, inter alia, the location and the conditions in which it is carried out being the same. If a single project was authorised before the system of protection laid down by that provision became applicable to the site in question, the carrying out of that project may nevertheless fall within the scope of Article 6(2) of that directive.

  1. Article 6(3) of Directive 92/43 must be interpreted as meaning that an ‘appropriate assessment’ within the meaning of that provision may not take into account the existence of ‘conservation measures’ within the meaning of paragraph 1 of that article, ‘preventive measures’ within the meaning of paragraph 2 of that article, measures specifically adopted for a programme such as that at issue in the main proceedings or ‘autonomous’ measures, in so far as those measures are not part of that programme, if the expected benefits of those measures are not certain at the time of that assessment.

  2. Article 6(3) of Directive 92/43 must be interpreted as meaning that measures introduced by national legislation, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, including procedures for the surveillance and monitoring of farms whose activities cause nitrogen deposition and the possibility of imposing penalties, up to and including the closure of those farms, are sufficient for the purposes of complying with that provision.”

Click here for the judgment.

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