In the Netherlands, areas have been designated that are specially protected against harmful influences from building plans and certain uses of the area in question. This does not always mean that 'nothing is allowed' in such an area. Of great importance for the legal interpretation of the required level of protection are the specific conservation objectives for an area and the associated management plans and other forms of planning for nature development. Whoever wants to do something in or near a designated area or wants to prevent a certain infringement will have to investigate what is and what is not allowed. This is not always easy. The actual case has to be tested against rules that have been designed in the abstract. Usually, a well-directed cooperation with an ecological consultancy is needed to map out the impact of an activity on the nature area. The Natura 2000 areas are important nature areas that have been designated on a European level. The National Nature Network are also protected areas and ecological connection zones for the preservation and development of locally significant natural values. Until 2017, these areas were referred to as the National Ecological Network (EHS). There is also an overlap between the Natura 2000 areas and the National Nature Network. All Natura 2000 areas are in fact also part of the National Nature Network.
Since 1 January 2017, the protection of plants and animal species has been regulated in the Nature Protection Act. This new act combines the protection of areas and species in one act. Previously, species protection was regulated by the Flora and Fauna Act.
The planned felling of trees in public spaces very often results in actions by local residents who are attached to this green setting in their residential and living environment. A new development is the fact that many municipalities have now made the felling of trees on private property no longer subject to a permit, unless the tree concerned has been specially designated on a list of trees to be protected. The felling of trees can often be effectively prevented by means of a notice of objection and, if necessary, a request for suspension from the preliminary relief judge at the district court. Often trees are felled wrongly under the denominator of maintenance or 'thinning', or they are felled too early, when it is insufficiently clear that a building plan - for which the felling is required - will actually be carried out. It also happens regularly that (just to be sure) too much tree felling is requested than is strictly necessary, so that more trees are lost unnecessarily.
HABITAT supports environmental associations and foundations, private individuals and residents' groups, as well as the large national environmental organisations, in defending the interests of nature, landscape and the environment.
Often, nature and landscape protection forms part of zoning plan procedures and environmental permits that enable new activities, business activities, housing or infrastructure. The aim of such actions may be to stop an initiative, but also to discuss how to fit it in as carefully as possible.
HABITAT is also regularly asked to assist in enforcement actions against breaches of protected areas. For example, stopping the illegal use of a Natura 2000 site by building, constructing paths and activities that are not compatible with the site's conservation objectives and/or the site's management plan.
In case of area development or other new construction on a site where there are fixed breeding and resting areas of certain animals and places where there are possibly protected plant species, an ecological survey must be carried out by an independent ecological consultancy. The first step is usually to carry out a quick-scan study to determine whether and which species occur in the area. Then, it must be determined how to proceed, taking into account the applicable prohibitions, exemptions and dispensations. In practice, the degree of care with which such research must be carried out gives rise to many legal and ecological discussions. The Ministry of Economic Affairs has gathered ecological knowledge and approaches for a number of species in a Species Standard. Click here for an up-to-date overview of the available species standards.