Council of State gives green light to environmental zone Utrecht, KNAC disappointed

Environmental zone
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The mayor and aldermen of Utrecht were allowed to set up an environmental zone for the city center, the station area and the Jaarbeurs site. This is evident from a ruling by the Administrative Jurisdiction Department of the Council of State today (8 February 2017). No appeal is possible against the decision.

The Koninklijke Nederlandsche Automobiel Club (KNAC) and the Stichting Stop Luchtverontreiniging Utrecht (SSLU) appealed against the traffic decree, in which the environmental zone was set. That decision makes it possible to exclude diesel cars from before 2001 from the center of Utrecht. According to SSLU, the environmental zone has a negative effect on air quality in the city. This is partly due to an increase in the number of bottlenecks due to detours. KNAC represents the interests of motorists and is in principle opposed to the environmental zone. She believes that the disadvantages of the environmental zone do not outweigh the benefits.

Assessment room

In the opinion of the Administrative Jurisprudence Department, a municipal administration has discretion when taking a traffic decision. And that means that the "absolute necessity of a traffic decision does not have to be demonstrated". It is sufficient for the environmental interest to be served and for the municipality to make clear how the interests, for and against the environmental zone, are weighed against each other, according to the Administrative Law Division.

Package of measures

The Administrative Jurisprudence Department is of the opinion that the municipal administration has properly carried out this balancing of interests. That the environmental impact may be marginal does not change the opinion. The environmental zone is part of a larger package of measures to improve air quality in Utrecht. Each measure in itself does not have to lead to a "significant effect in absolute terms," ​​according to the Administrative Law Division.

"Administrative swamp remains"

After the publication of the ruling, we spoke with Peter Staal, director of the KNAC. He indicated to be disappointed in the opinion of the Council of State. “The people involved do not look at whether or not a measure works. What is important is that the municipality has the freedom to implement a policy measure, even if the effect is marginal. ”Furthermore, Staal had concerns about the fact that the motion adopted by Xavrex in Barbara 2015 (against environmental zoning) was not included judgment. Staal also concluded with regard to the continuation of the environmental zones: “It all leads to a situation in which an administrative swamp remains in which every municipality can continue to take decisions independently.

No options for next steps

The KNAC now sees little to no possibilities to take further steps. “We will respect the statement, however difficult we find it. In any case, we did our very best for our members. ” What honors the KNAC is that it followed the legal path in a decent and well-founded manner for almost four years. In the fight against the environmental zone in Utrecht, the questionable basis for the imposed measure became particularly clear. In addition, the KNAC revealed that even well-founded and admissible arguments against the environmental zone are less important than spending ten million euros in public money on a decision, the effect of which has by no means been proven. Making this method transparent deserves a compliment, although it will be little comfort for Peter Eloy Staal's club.

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