Villy Lopman comments in Delfi on the legislative inconsistency in the Planning Act and the Forest Act

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Villy Lopman comments in Delfi on the legislative inconsistency in the Planning Act and the Forest Act

In an article published in the Delfi Roheportaal, RASK partner Villy Lopman commented on an inconsistency between the Planning Act and the Forest Act, and explained why the municipality of Põlva turned to the Supreme Court for legal clarity on the issue of protecting Estonia’s forests containing carved trees.

Controversies over forests containing carved trees began to emerge in 2018, when the municipality of Põlva started drafting a new comprehensive plan. It turned out that the Planning Act requires the municipality to protect and preserve the local cultural heritage, including trees with crosses carved on them, while the Forest Act does not provide a basis for imposing felling restrictions on trees with arborglyphs. Therefore, the municipality is forced to choose between violating the Forest Act or the Planning Act. As the article explains, the current legislation is interpreted quite differently by the Estonian Private Forest Union, the Spatial Planning Department of the Ministry of Finance, the National Heritage Board, the Ministry of the Environment, and planners and architects.

“The aim of going to court is to finally clarify the rights of the municipality in this situation. To put it simply, the question is whether a single section of the Planning Act is sufficient to restrict property rights in order to protect arborglyphs,” Villy says in the article.

The municipality of Põlva has submitted three potentially unconstitutional points to the Supreme Court. First, legal ambiguity, which prevents the municipality from complying with the Planning Act and protecting local heritage. Second, the absence of a rule giving the municipality the right to impose felling restrictions to protect cultural heritage. Third, the absence of guidelines for providing the municipality with the financial means to pay compensation.

Villy Lopman is one of Estonia’s foremost legal advisors in the field of planning, especially in matters involving negotiations with various authorities and court disputes with the state.

Villy has wide experience in consulting local governments. He also often represents planners, civil society associations and various stakeholders  in their relationships with local governments and the Environmental Board, and has assisted ministries in mapping legislative conflicts.