When rolling out their fibre networks operators have to apply for the necessary permits or authorisations. The exact requirements and provisions may differ depending on the location or region. Below a short overview is given with regard to the Flemish Region. The overview is by no means intended to be exhaustive, certainly not as far as the legislation is concerned. An operator who wants to roll out fibre in a municipality or city, should first contact the town or city council.
Building and operating permit
In principle, in the Flemish Region a building and operating permit has to be applied for when urban development actions are undertaken. There are quite a few exemptions for telecom networks, as listed in the vrijstellingsbesluit van de Vlaamse Regering (Flemish Government’s decree on exemptions).
A building and operating permit (among other things) is not required for:
- fibre cable and associated equipment laid on public domain (Art. 10);
- placing cables, lines and associated equipment (such as sockets) on the exterior of existing buildings, provided they are in an inconspicuous colour and do not rise above the building (Art. 12.4);
- placing underground technical installations and lines and cables to telecommunications transmission and receiving installations (Art. 12.4).
This implies that a building and operating permit is usually not required.
When it is required, the provisions are as follows:
- Obligation to apply digitally by way of the omgevingsloket (building and operating desk), using the normenboek “infrastructuur” (infrastructure standards book).
- Maximum time after the file has been declared complete: 120 days.
- Handling fee: maximum 500 euro.
- Validity: works have to start within 2 years’ time.
KLIP and GIPOD
Anyone who is planning excavation work (except manual work) has to submit a KLIP plan application, in order to avoid damage to existing pipelines and cables. More information about KLIP can be found on this page of the website.
Some types of works also have to be entered into GIPOD. This platform is also used to coordinate the works (“synergy”) with other parties, in order to cause as little nuisance as possible. For more information, including about the associated obligations, see the page about GIPOD on this website.
Before starting works in the public domain the operator submits the execution of those works to the municipality, in order to get authorisation to use or occupy the public domain. In case of regional roads a separate request addressed to “Agentschap Wegen en Verkeer” (Roads and Traffic Agency) may be required.
The exact stipulations to apply may differ for each municipality or city, even though the majority of Flemish cities and municipalities have signed the ‘code nuts’ (utilities code) in which a uniform procedure was laid down. More information about the utilities code is given below on this page. In the future GIPOD will be used as much as possible for this purpose.
If the operations have an impact on traffic, a signalisation permit is required. This permit describes what traffic signs and what warning material will be placed. The application for this permit is submitted to the municipality or local police shortly before the start of the operations and, possibly to the Roads and Traffic Agency (if those roads are concerned). This matter is also described in the utilities code for those municipalities that have accepted this code.
At the local level, freeze periods are set after certain works have been carried out. This means that in principle, for a number of years, no new operations are allowed, in order to reduce nuisance for the people living in the neighbourhood. This should encourage all (utility) operators and road maintenance authorities to carry out their operations at the same time as much as possible. Freeze periods in Flanders are set at the local level, but the utilities code contains provisions that also relate to this matter (see below).
It should be noted that a municipality or city can also forbid operations at specific moments in the course of the year (e.g. the summer period in seaside towns).
'Code nuts' or code regarding utility works along local roads
The ‘code nuts’ or ‘code nutswerken langs gemeentewegen’ (code regarding utility works along local roads) offers a framework for arrangements between municipalities and network administrators to achieve a better coordination and quality of infrastructural works, from planning to execution and delivery. For further information see the associated page on the website of the VVSG (Association of Flemish cities and municipalities).
The majority of Flemish municipalities and cities has adopted this arrangement framework (the list is available on the VVSG website). For the other municipalities and cities other provisions may apply, and therefore one should preferably contact the local authorities.
Some provisions included in the utilities code are:
- Operations are divided into categories 1, 2 and 3, and specific or urgent operations:
|Category 1||Category 2||Category 3|
|Content||“Major operations”: Surface > 50 m² or a length of > 100 metres, or a drilling of > 50 metres||“Minor operations”: No category 1, with a surface > 3 m² or a length of > 10 metres, or a drilling of > 10 metres||“Punctual work”: Surface <= 3 m² or a length of <= 10 metres, or a drilling of <= 10 metres|
|Freeze periods||Yes (2/5 years)||/||/|
|Request for works||Yes||Yes||/|
|Notification at start of works||No later than 5 working days before the start of the works||No later than 5 working days before the start of the works||No later than the next working day after the start of the works|
|Application for signalisation||Yes, answer within 1 month||Yes, answer within 1 month||When associated with traffic disruption. Answer within 5 working days|
|Year’s licence for signalisation possible||No||No||Yes, if no traffic disruption|
|Obligation to inform local residents||In writing, at least 48 hours before start of the works||In writing, at least 48 hours before start of the works||A sign near the construction site mentioning the contact details among other things, and no later than the day the works start, a notice in the neighbours’ letterbox.|
|Specific works||Urgent works|
|Content||Works apart from the other categories and for which special arrangements with the municipality are needed, e.g. systematic renewal of customer connections starting from 5 buildings||Any works, regardless of the size, that need to be carried out immediately for the safety and continuity of the utility function or to prevent further damage.|
|Request for operations||Yes||/|
|Notification at start of works||No later than 5 working days before the start of operations||No later than the next working day after the start of operations|
|Application for signalisation||Yes, answer within 1 month. For customer connections the reply time is 5 working days.||As short as possible|
|Year’s licence for signalisation possible||No||Yes|
|Obligation to inform local residents||In writing, at least 48 hours before start of the works||A sign near the construction site mentioning the contact details among other things, and no later than the day the works start, a notice in the neighbours’ letterbox.|
- Freeze periods last for 2 years, except if the public domain was reconfigured or the superstructure was upgraded: in that case the freeze period is 5 years. Information about the freeze periods can be obtained from the local authorities, or in the future the periods will be visible in GIPOD.
- Before the start of some works the utility company or operator has to submit the execution of the project to the local authority (the “request for works”).
- For some works a general authorisation applies. Following the initial approval the general authorisation is valid for one year. If the municipality fails to reply within two months after the request, this is regarded as an approval. Operations for which the general authorisation applies, still have to be notified on the next working day following the start of the operations, at the latest. For that purpose GIPOD is used as much as possible.
- The application for signalisation, in which the contractor describes his traffic signs plan, has to be submitted to the municipality or the police. The reply time depends on the category. The application for traffic signs can be submitted at the same time as the request for works.
- The operator has an obligation to inform the residents/traders/etc. about the nuisance.
- A point of particular interest is that the contractor repairs the working area according to the rules and using the original building materials. More specific information is given in the utilities code. If the municipality allows operations in a 5 year blocking period, it can impose extra conditions for the repair, in order to avoid that the repair in the superstructure is visible.
Provisions for regional roads
For works on regional roads, under the administration of the Roads and Traffic Agency, a separate protocol was concluded: the Protocol for infrastructural and utility operations in the domain of the Flemish Region.
There is also a Practical guidance for works in the vicinity of utility infrastructure in the public domain in Flanders.