Villy Lopman: landowners and local residents have the right to challenge higher-level plans
Yesterday, on 14 March, the Supreme Court made a consequential decision in connection with a landowner’s complaint against the nationwide thematic plan that the government adopted in spring 2022 and that laid out marine and coastal areas suitable for developing wind energy in Estonia.
Although the Supreme Court refused to review the submitted complaint, the court clarified that, in principle, landowners, environmental associations and, for example, local residents, have the right to challenge nationwide plans. The reason is that higher-level plans can establish definite, fundamental frameworks for the state’s future activities and choices, and it would not be possible to dispute such fundamental issues later on.
“In this decision, the Supreme Court gave important instructions for future planning disputes. More specifically, it clarified that people can challenge higher-level plans that involve any kind of fundamental decisions in order to protect their rights,” RASK partner Villy Lopman says, describing the implications of the decision.
In this case, the nationwide plan determined which marine and coastal areas are suitable for developing wind energy. The Supreme Court did not agree with other courts that maintained that just because of its highly generalised nature, the nationwide plan cannot in principle infringe the rights of any natural persons in a way that would give them the right to appeal.
Lopman explained that the question of whether highly generalized plans could be contested was previously debated, but the Supreme Court clarified that there is no general rule that excludes the right to appeal against higher-level plans. However, the court needs to be convinced that an infringement of rights has indeed occurred. In this case, the Supreme Court found that the infringement was neither evident enough nor could it be anticipated,” explained Villy Lopman, RASK’s Head of Environment and Planning.
The Supreme Court decision is available here: https://www.riigikohus.ee/et/uudiste-arhiiv/riigikohus-uleriigilist-planeeringut-saab-vaidlustada-ainult-inimene-kelle-oigusi-see