The reference was made in proceedings concerning, i.a., two decisions of the Pakruojo rajono savivaldybė confirming two detailed plans governing the construction of an intensive pig-rearing complex with capacity for 4 000 pigs and the proper use of plots of land where the complexes would be based. The applicants disputed the legality of the two decisions, claiming that the competent authorities should have carried out a strategic assessment of the effects on the environment.
The applicants appealed to the Administrative Court, which requested a preliminary ruling concerning the interpretation of Arts 3(2)(a), (3), (5), 11(1) and (2) of Dir. 2001/42/EC. In particular, the ruling addressed questions with regard to the assessment of the effects of certain plans at local level on the environment and member states discretion with regard to the implementation of Dir 2001/42/EC (1.). It also addressed the relationship of Dir. 85/337 and Dir. 2001/42, i.e., whether an EIA under Dir. 85/337 would permit to exempt from the obligation to carry out such an assessment under Dir. 2001/42.
the Court i.a. held: The Court held:Pursuant to Article 3(5) of Article 2001/42, the Member States are to determine, either through case-by-case examination or by specifying types of plans and programmes, whether plans, such as those at issue in the main proceedings, are likely to have significant environmental effects thereby requiring an assessment to be carried out in accordance with that directive.
The margin of discretion enjoyed by Member States pursuant to Article 3(5) of Directive 2001/42 to specify certain types of plans which are likely to have significant environmental effects is limited by the requirement under Article 3(3) of that directive, in conjunction with Article 3(2), to subject the plans likely to have significant effects on the environment to environmental assessment, in particular on account of their characteristics, their effects and the areas likely to be affected. Consequently, a Member State which establishes a criterion which leads, in practice, to an entire class of plans being exempted in advance from the requirement of environmental assessment would exceed the limits of its discretion under Article 3(5) of Directive 2001/42, in conjunction with Article 3(2) and (3), unless all plans exempted could, on the basis of relevant criteria such as, inter alia, their objective, the extent of the territory covered or the sensitivity of the landscape concerned, be regarded as not being likely to have significant effects on the environment.That requirement is not met by the criterion that the land planning document in question mentions only one subject of economic activity. Such a criterion, besides being contrary to Article 3(2)(a) of Directive 2001/42, is not one which can determine whether or not a plan has ‘significant effects on the environment.