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Rights of social groups in the construction process

What proceedings do ecological organisations have a right to participate in?

The role of ecological organisations is highly visible in the construction process. The regulations provide that they may take part, for example, in proceedings seeking issuance of a decision on environmental conditions, and in proceedings seeking issuance of a building permit, when the proceedings involve an environmental impact assessment. There is a similar rule in the case of issuance of other administrative decisions for construction projects. Moreover, even if ecological organisations do not take part in a proceeding when entitled to do so, they still have standing to file an administrative appeal against the decision or to challenge the decision in the administrative court.
Other procedures that environmental organisations are entitled to participate in include a strategic environmental assessment, an “appropriate assessment” of projects that may affect a Natura 2000 site, and proceedings for issuance of an integrated permit or amendment of an integrated permit for a material modification of an installation.
There are doubts with respect to certain other proceedings, as ecological organisations may participate in them under the general rules provided in the Administrative Procedure Code for social organisations, i.e. when such participation is justified by the statutory purposes of the organisation and supported by the interests of society. Because of the vagueness of these concepts, it is not always clear whether a specific organisation meets these criteria in any given case.
The standing of social organisations to participate in proceedings under general rules is sometimes excluded by specific regulations—for example, in proceedings seeking issuance of a building permit in a case where an environmental impact assessment is not being conducted.
If an ecological group is improperly permitted to participate in a proceeding, there is a risk that the subsequent administrative decision may be set aside as defective. For the investor this chiefly results in prolonging the procedures leading up to the start of construction.
Dominik Wałkowski, Environmental Law practice, Wardyński & Partners
This text was published on 29 September 2011 in the “Commercial Law Academy” series in Dziennik Gazeta Prawna daily