Italy rapped for developing leisure and industry in protected areas

Italy has fallen foul of the Eirpoean courts for allowing industrial and leisure development in environmentally sensitive areas protected by law.

Conservation

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has declared that, in approving 'zonal agreement' for industrial development in the Manfredonia region, the Italian Republic failed to take appropriate steps to avoid, in the special protection area (SPA) 'Valloni e steppe pedegarganiche', the deterioration of natural habitats and the habitats of species as well as the disturbance of species for which the area was established.

It was held that the Italian Republic failed, in the period before 28 December 1998, to fulfil its obligations under Article 4(4) of Council Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds. The Court stated that Member states were obliged to comply with that provision, even where the area in question had not been classified as an SPA, provided that it should have been so classified.

The Court also held that in the period after that date the Italian Republic failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 6(2) of the Council Directive 92/43/EEC, in the SPA 'Valloni e steppe pedegarganiche', on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora.

Judgement: C-338/05 may be accessed via the website of the ECJ here

In relation to a project for extension and improvement of the Santa Caterina Valfurva skiing area and for provision of associated facilities in the special protection area 'Parco Nazionale dello stelvio'; the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has declared that, by authorising measures likely to have a significant environmental impact without making them subject to an appropriate impact assessment and failing to adopt measures to avoid the deterioration of natural habitats and habitats of species and the disturbance of species, the Italian Republic failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 6(2) to (4) of Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna, in conjunction with Article 7 of that Directive, and under Article 4(1) and (2) of Council Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds.

Judgement: C-304/05 may be accessed via the website of the European Court of Justice here.

The European Commission sought a declaration from the European Court of Justice that, as a result of approval by the municipality of Altamura and the region of Apulia, of an alteration to an urban development plan comprising a series of industrial construction projects likely to have a significant effect on the Special Protection Area (SPA) and proposed site of Community importance (SCIp) Murgia Alta without having first carried out an impact assessment, the Italian Republic failed to fulfil its obligations under the combined provisions of Articles 6(3) and 7 of Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora.

The Court held that it was for the Commission to prove that a plan or project was likely to have a significant effect in light of the conservation objectives for a site.

In this case the Court found it appropriate to distinguish the various framework agreements from the works carried out subsequent to the granting of construction permits by the municipality of Altamura.

As regards the framework agreements, the court held that the Commission, in merely alleging the existence of such agreements, did not furnish sufficiently specific evidence enabling the Court to consider that measures likely to have a significant effect on the site concerned within the meaning of Article 6(3) of the Directive were at issue.

As regards projects carried out and the evidence supporting the burden of proof of the obligation to carry out an assessment of environmental implications, the Court found that the Commission did not give specific indications as to the geographic location and scope of the construction work carried out in relation to the site.

The Court also stated that Commission did not provide data on the technical nature of the works or provide explanations as to the extent that those works, with respect to the characteristics and specific environmental conditions of the site, were likely to have a significant effect on it.

The Court declared that the Commission had not satisfied the obligation to adduce evidence concerning the alleged infringement, the Court dismissed the action and ordered the Commission of the European Communities to pay the costs.

Judgement: C-179/06 may be accessed via the website of the ECJ here.

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