Efteling does not have to close – Closure of amusement park due to missing nature permit can be prevented

People living near the Efteling who are tired of the traffic – which they can do nothing about and are not to blame – can call on their only rescue by relying on increasing nitrogen deposition. They have done so following the processes that MOB initiates against companies and often wins. The judge ruled in their favor: after the 5 millionth visitor, the amusement park must close because even more traffic harms nature.

In the case of the Efteling, this concerns the settling (‘deposition’) of emitted nitrogen on the habitat types that occur in the Loonse and Drunense dunes. So let’s take a look at the extent to which years of nitrogen deposition have affected the quality of the most nitrogen-sensitive habitat types in the area. In the table below I have shown the differences in quality (conservation status) in 2004 and 2018 of the three most nitrogen-sensitive types that cover a considerable surface in the area. The average modeled but not actually determined nitrogen deposition in the area, according to the official PAS document of the area, is 1471 mol/ha.yr. The deposition is almost equal to the national average for Natura 2000 areas.

All three were in an excellent state of conservation at the baseline measurement when the Natura2000 areas were established, the coding for this on the (mandatory) European Standard Data Form (SDF) was the letter A. This qualification is shown in 2018, with the update of the SDF, only changed for the drifting sands type, which appears to have fallen from an excellent condition to the lowest rating: moderate – poor (code C).

This is difficult to understand because the ‘Weak-buffered fens’ type is still in an excellent state of conservation, while its critical deposition value (KDW) is exceeded even more than in the case of drifting sands.

Besides nitrogen, there are many factors that can determine the quality of a habitat type. Think of the way of management, (changing) water management and (changing and more intensive) recreational use

This observation indicates that the quality of the most nitrogen-sensitive habitat types cannot be explained by the calculated nitrogen deposition. I understand that we have come to think that conservation is all about reducing nitrogen emissions. But that premise can turn out to be wrong. Besides nitrogen, there are many factors that can determine the quality of a habitat type. Think of the way of management, (changing) water management and (changing and more intensive) recreational use. It is a pity that such factors are not looked at critically enough, while there are really good reasons for this.

I am curious whether the province of Noord-Brabant will take the above fact into consideration when revising the permit for the Efteling. I advise the court that will undoubtedly have to rule on it: read carefully the Sweetman judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union because it takes precedence over Dutch law. The only assessment that must be performed for the area with regard to “plans or projects” concerns the “natural features” for which the area has been selected under Natura2000 (the crested newt habitat and the drift sands habitat type). This means that the unnecessary additional requirements that our legislator states that the “appropriate assessment” of potentially significant negative effects can be omitted. The 8 habitat types that occur in the area in addition to drifting sands do not need to be considered in an appropriate assessment. Solving the nitrogen crisis in Kaatsheuvel does not have to be more complicated. Lotje can go to Holle Bolle Gijs again.