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CMK - Centre for Environmental Sciences



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Research Group Law: General

The research group Law researches from a legal point of view all kinds of environmental aspects. Essential hereby is that it strives for an integrated analysis with the other scientific disciplines within the Centre for Environmental Studies (CMK).
Most of the attention goes to the following topics:

  1. (Inter)national environmental law (Bernard Vanheusden /Annemie Draye)
  2. Development of brownfields (Bernard Vanheusden)
  3. Legislation with respect to soil use (Bernard Vanheusden /Annemie Draye)

In connection with the foregoing, the research group provides all kinds of services. This involves amongst others advice to public authorities (regarding policy issues) and to companies (regarding concrete environmental issues), participation in diverse international and national expert groups, organisation of and participation in (inter)national conferences/seminars, cooperation to the realization of policy preparatory documents,…

Law: Topics

Environmental law

Environmental law in general, whether international/European or national/regional, forms an important research topic. Concerning international and European environmental law, research studies have already been conducted on for example the following aspects: 1) the implementation in Belgium, and in the Flemish Region in particular, of multilateral environmental conventions, and 2) the transposition of the participation rules for plans and programs in the Aarhus Convention, and the related European Directive, in the Flemish Region. Various studies have also been carried out with regard to national and regional environmental law aspects, e.g. on the possibilities to get environmental subsidies.


Brownfields are defined as abandoned or under-used industrial sites where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination. The term was coined in the United States. Meanwhile, also in other countries brownfield development has become a hot topic.

The research group is already paying attention to brownfield development for several years now. The main reason for this is that brownfields have an active potential for re-use in the broadest sense. The development of brownfields could give an answer to the increasing demand for industrial sites. At the same time it could lower the pressure on the remaining open space. The government is aware of these problems and tries to intervene. However, the legislative framework is not always adequate. The abandoned parcels quite often belong to various owners, whose identities sometimes remain unknown. On top of that the sites are contaminated or potentially contaminated. In a lot of cases the size of the contamination is unknown and the responsibility for the remediation costs is under discussion. As a result, brownfields deter a lot of investors and project developers.

This research mainly deals with aspects as for example the applicable soil remediation legislation, the spatial planning, the economic development and the financing of brownfield development.

Soil use legislation

The research group conducts studies concerning various aspects of soil use and their mutual relation (soil and spatial planning, monuments and landscapes, inheritance,…). With regard to monuments and landscapes and inheritance, the group can fall back on top expertise based on many years of academic-scientific and practical experience.

One of the research projects that framed very well in this research topic was a project on the legal statute of water mills. Water mills form an important historical inheritance along many Flemish rivers. The project concerned in the first place the legal study of the existence of mill, dam and water rights and of the exact meaning and value of these rights. In the second place the complete legal framework was analysed, in order to help the public authorities work out an integrated policy.