Results of the SEAS project analysis

Do any spatial plans or projects with an impact on the environment been created and approved in your community these days?

Do you know that you can influence decision-making to accept the plan?

The environment does not have a voice.

Participate, react in time and become the voice of the environment!

A spatial plan is the basic document of the spatial development of each local self-government unit. To accept the plan it is necessary to have a public discussion with , so that is the reason why the plans can’t be accepted overnight and everyone affected by the decision has the right and opportunity to be involved in the plan adoption process.

Spatial plans are environmental protection tools because they determine the framework of possible human activities in a certain area. Their role is to reconcile the development of a local community and environmental protection as a precondition for development. A clean and healthy environment is everyone’s interest, but the environment cannot represent itself, so through public participation, citizens can become the voice of the environment. Coastal counties and cities are facing with development pressures that have been stimulated by the development of tourism, but actual spatial plans are outdated so they do not follow the real development needs of a local community or have been changed so many times that the average citizen has difficulty interpreting them.

As part of the project Preserving the Adriatic Sea Ecosystems by Active Participation of Citizens – SEAS, we made a Comparative analysis of spatial planning systems in the Republic of Croatia and selected EU countries.

The results of the Analysis show that citizens still do not use their right to public participation on a satisfactory level in the process of adoption and amending spatial plans because of insufficiently clear time frames and instructions from competent authorities for participation once the plan is put up for public discussion.

Only a citizen who is informed and involved in the purpose of adopting an act at the earliest stage can understand it and apply in everyday life . That is why the participation of the public is extremely important for obtaining legitimacy in the implementation of the spatial plan among citizens. In this sense, we created an educational infographic by which we want to encourage citizens in using their right to public participation during future processes of adopting or amending spatial plans.

The city of Split is in the process of amending and supplementing the spatial plan, namely the General Urban Plan (GUP), in which you can also participate.

A consultation process with the public is expected by the end of the year, and you can find more technical information on the City of Split website, and you can find out how you can participate in the consultation process from our infographic.

Protection and preservation of the environment are ensured through the public participation in decision-making about environmental matters, and also through the right of the public to sue in case of violation of these rights.

Guided by this, as part of the SEAS project, Comparative analysis of the Effect of using the Institute of public participation and access to justice on environmental matters in Croatia and the EU member states was made. The focus of the Analysis is on participation in the environmental impact assessment process and access to justice in cases related to environmental impact assessment, with a focus on environmental NGO. Environmental impact assessment procedures are a mandatory step for the approval of certain projectsin the environment and an important instrument for timely public participation while the intervention is still in the preparatory phase.

The results of the analysis point to certain deficiencies in implementation, and by comparing practices in other EU member states, we are suggesting practical solutions to improve mentioned institutes. In this sense, we have created guidelines for public authorities and associations that can directly influence the improvement of public participation.

Many recognized environmental lawyers emphasized the importance of public participation, so Ludwig Krämer once established that the environment does not have its voice, and lawyer Eleanor Sharpston stated: “Fish cannot go to court, just as the environment cannot protect itself if it is threatened or injured.” With a louder echo and respect for the voice of citizens, we can achieve a balance between economic interests and the general interest in preserving the environment and nature, and only by working together, we make influence the development of these rights in the Republic of Croatia.

The SEAS project is implemented with the financial support of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway within the framework of EEA grants, and our project partners are WWF Adria, Udruga Zelena Istra, Urbanex d.o.o. and the University of South-Eastern Norway (USN).

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