Right to Appeal Building Permits Expands to Registered Associations as of December 2021

Registered associations will in future have the right to appeal building permits if the permit concerns a project that is subject to the Act on Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure. This amendment to the Land Use and Building Act (132/1999) entered into force on 1 December 2021.

The amendment is based on the formal notice issued by the European Commission to Finland stating that Finland has failed to transpose  several provisions of the Directive on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment (2011/92/EU).

What Has Changed?

The right to appeal a building permit now also applies to registered associations whose purpose is to promote the conservation of the environment, health or nature.

However, the expanded right of appeal only applies to buildings in projects that are subject to the Act on Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure.

In other words, the environmental impacts of the project must have been subject to an environmental impact assessment procedure. The right of appeal in building permit procedures concerns all buildings that are part of the project subject to the environmental impact assessment.

For example, the building permit for a major industrial facility located in an industrial park or the building permit for an individual wind turbine that is part of a wind park project could fall under the expanded right of appeal.

The right of appeal also includes the right to make a request for an administrative review. The right to make such a request is determined on the same grounds as the right of appeal. A decision made on the basis of a request for an administrative review can be appealed.

It is worth noting that the grounds for an appeal by an association are limited to the field of operation defined in the association’s by-laws, and the building in question must be located in the association’s area of operations.

What Impacts Will the Amendment Have?

The amendment will expand the pool of potential appellants and could, therefore, delay a building permit from becoming final. Construction cannot, as a rule, be started before the permit is final, and an appeal process could delay the implementation of the project.

Parties applying for building permits still have the right to apply to the permit authority for the right to commence, based on which the construction work can be performed partially or in full against placement of a security prior to the building permit being final. In such case, commencing construction work means taking the risk that the appeal authority could later overturn the permit decision. Further, while an appeal is pending, an appeal authority may also prohibit the enforcement of the permit decision.