When is a planning permit required?

Which acts and works call for a planning permit?

You need a planning permit for the following:

  • Building, transforming, demolishing or rebuilding a building

  • Changing the allocation of a property

    Examples: opening a shop in a building used for an office, a workshop in a space used as a shop, accommodation in a former warehouse (even without transformation works)

  • In some cases, changing the use of a building

    Examples: using a warehouse to set up a Horeca business, nightshop, launderette, telestore (even without transformation works)
  • Using land for depositing used vehicles or for storing canisters, materials or waste.

  • Significantly modifying the commercial activity in a property with a net commercial surface area of over 400 m².

    Examples: significantly modifying the type or range of goods and services offered or even the surface area used.

What exemptions apply to the planning permit?

Despite what we said in the first paragraph, a planning permit is sometimes not required. Some acts and works are exempt from the permit due to their minimal importance.

Some examples: using part of your home to set up a medical practice, replacing a commercial showcase, installing a shutter, putting up a sign.

It is only under certain conditions that you do not need a permit in these cases.

Be aware

  • Selected land or property must always be covered by a planning permit corresponding to your activities. One single reliable place to check this: the town’s urban planning department. Don’t settle for information provided by the owner, estate agent or former operator! For many projects, you will need to apply for a new planning permit and comply with the provisions of land use plans).

Who issues the permit?

In principle, the application is made to the municipality's town planning department in the territory where your property is located.

However, the Brussels-Capital Region must be contacted in the following cases:

  • when the application is made by a public body, and provided that the acts and works are directly related to the exercise of its tasks
  • when it concerns acts and works of public interest
  • when it concerns a listed property or a property in the process of becoming listed
  • when it concerns an unused site listed in the inventory of unused sites (this inventory no longer exists)
  • when the planning permit application is subject to a fire report or impact studies.

The planning certificate

The planning certificate is a document which indicates if your project is likely to be authorised, and under what conditions.

It does not exempt you from subsequently obtaining the planning permit, but gives you an idea of the issuing authority's requirements. The application for a certificate is optional. The planning certificate expires if, within two years of its issue, no application is made for a planning permit, or if the permit application made during this period is the subject of a refusal.


Brussels land use code (CoBAT) of 9th April 2004, art. 98

Updated 13/08/2019


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