Any opening of a retail store with a net sales area greater than 400m² requires a commercial establishment permit.
It is important to define the following concepts:
- “Net sales area”: the area intended for sales and which is accessible to the public, including uncovered areas. In the event of an extension, the net sales area to be considered when applying the decree is the total area after the commercial establishment project is complete. This area notably includes the till area, the areas located behind the tills and the entrance halls, in situations where the latter are also used for the display or sale of goods.
- “Integrated project”: the project which, at the time of submitting the permit application, seems to require a commercial establishment permit and:
- a planning permit
- an environmental permit
- an all-in-one permit (planning permit + environmental permit)
- "Commercial complex": a group of retail establishments with a net sales area of more than 400m², whether or not they are located in separate buildings and whether or not the same person is the promoter, the owner, the operator or the licence holder. They are grouped together on the same site and there is a legal or de facto link between them, in particular at a financial, commercial or material level. Alternatively, they are the subject of a common procedure in regards to planning permission, an environmental permit or an all-in-one permit
- “Commercial establishment official”: the official appointed by the Government, who has been delegated for the purposes specified in the decree
- “Delegated official”: the official, or officials, appointed by the Government in accordance with the CWATUPE, or any other code that replaces it
- “Technical official”: the official, or officials, appointed by the Government in accordance with the Decree of 11 March 1999 concerning the environmental permit
It is important to identify what gives rise to the obligation to obtain a commercial establishment permit or an integrated permit that constitutes a commercial establishment permit. To this end, this must be clearly mentioned in the application for a commercial establishment permit or an integrated permit.
Retail establishments can build an extension based on a simple declaration. Therefore, this extension need not be the subject of an application for a commercial establishment permit, provided it satisfies the following criteria:
- The retail establishment is covered by a commercial establishment permit
- The extension cannot exceed 20% of the existing and authorised net sales area
- The extension cannot exceed 300m² of the net sales area for the authorised establishment
Competent authority for issuing the integrated permit
If the net sales area of the project is equal to, or greater than, 2500m², the Commercial establishment official will always be the competent authority.
If the net sales area of the project is less than 2500m², the Communal college of the municipality in which the establishment is located will be the competent authority, except in the case of an establishment that is located on the territory of several municipalities or when article D.IV-22 of the CODT applies (integrated project including acts and works that are subject to planning permission, for which the delegated official is the competent authority).
The application must be filed with the municipality, no matter who the relevant competent authority is.
Criteria for issuing permits for commercial establishments
The criteria for issuing permits for commercial establishments, or integrated permits that constitute a commercial establishment permit, are as follows:
- protecting consumers;
- promoting commercial diversity;
- avoiding the risk of a disruption to local supply;
- protecting the urban environment:
- ensuring there is no disruption in the balance between the various urban functions, which would undermine the day-to-day environment of existing or future neighbourhoods;
- including the commercial establishment, given its size and the type of point of sale in local development projects and in the specific dynamics of the urban model
- Social policy objectives:
- the density of the employment
- the quality and sustainability of the employment
- the contribution to more sustainable mobility:
- sustainable mobility
- accessibility for the community, with no special charges
Procedure for issuing integrated permits
The stages when applying for an integrated permit are as follows:
- Submission of the permit application to the municipality: This must comprise four paper copies + one electronic version of the entire application
- Transfer of the permit application: Within three working days of receiving the application, the Communal college sends a copy of the application to every relevant official and confirms receipt
- Decision on the completeness and admissibility of the application: The relevant officials give their opinion on the completeness and admissibility of the application within 20 days of receiving it If the application is deemed incomplete, the relevant officials will send a list of missing documents and the applicant will have six months from the date of the request for additional information to provide the documents that were missing from the file. Any application that is deemed incomplete twice is declared inadmissible.
- Public enquiry: Any application for a commercial establishment permit, or an integrated permit, is subject to a public enquiry, the terms of which are defined in Book I of the Environmental Code.
- Consultation of advisory bodies: The advisory bodies issue their opinions within 30 days if the project has a net sales area that is less than, or equal to, 2500m²; otherwise, they issue their opinions within 60 days. Failing this, the opinion is deemed unfavourable.
- Submission of amended plans: Prior to the decision, the applicant may submit amended plans. The process then restarts at step 3
- Decision from the competent authority: The time available to the competent authority to issue its opinion depends on the net sales area of the proposed commercial establishment and, when the application for an integrated permit is equivalent to an application for an environmental permit, on the class of the project.
- Appeal: An appeal may be filed against the first-instance decision:
- by the applicant;
- by the Commercial establishment official, the Technical official, the Delegated official, or the Communal college of the municipality in which all or part of the establishment is located;
- by any individual or legal entity with a justified interest.
This appeal is submitted to the Appeals Committee. The appeal must be sent within 20 days.
The Appeals Committee sends its decision to the applicant within a period of time that depends on the net sales area of the planned commercial establishment, starting from the day following the date of receipt of the appeal. If a decision is not sent by the deadline, the first-instance decision is upheld.
The application for a commercial establishment permit is a simplified version of the process above (integrated permit).
The competent authority has 90–140 days from the date on which the application is deemed complete to make its decision. This deadline depends on the net sales area of the project and the applicable class for the environmental permit.
Decree from the Walloon Government of 2 April 2015 concerning the process and various measures for executing the Decree of 5 February 2015 concerning commercial establishments and amending Book I of the Environmental Code
Decree from the Walloon Government of 13 May 2015 concerning the measures for executing the Decree of 5 February 2015 concerning commercial establishments and amending Book I of the Environmental Code