AFTER months of protests and court hearings about an undesired waste dump in their town, Pezinok inhabitants had a reason to celebrate on May 28 after the Slovak Supreme Court overturned the licence for the dump and sent the case back to the Slovak Environmental Inspectorate (SIŽP) for reassessment.
The Supreme Court ruled that the decision of the first instance authority in the proceedings about the waste dump violated the rights of Pezinok residents. Based on the decision by the Regional Construction Office in Bratislava, the Environmental Inspectorate permitted the waste dump, only 400 metres from the town centre, in January 2008, the SITA newswire reported. Inhabitants claimed that the construction office’s decision conflicted with Pezinok’s urban master-plan.
The Construction Office in Bratislava was at that time led by Ján Man junior, son of Ján Man senior, who had applied for the dump’s licence at the end of 2006 as the board chairman of the Ekologická skládka company. Ján Man junior was also a member of the supervisory board of the company at that time and in March 2007 he became the owner of the land where the waste dump was to be built.
The Construction Office excluded the public and other interested parties from the proceeding, with only Ekologická skládka allowed to participate. For several months the office then refused to publish its decision, saying that it contained business secrets, which was subsequently revealed to be untrue once the decision was made public, SITA wrote.
“It surely means victory for us,” Zuzana Čaputová, the lawyer for the civic initiative Waste Dumps Do Not Belong in Towns, told The Slovak Spectator, adding that they are very grateful to the people and groups who supported them.
“It means that after a year and a half we’ve reclaimed the rights that were violated in the proceedings and we can see directly from the Supreme Court’s decision that we were correct and our rights were violated in a serious and rough way that influenced the legality of the whole permission for the waste dump,” Čaputová said.
Čaputová will now wait for the written ruling to be delivered to learn more details about the Supreme Court’s reasoning.
“Afterwards, it’s in the hands of SIŽP, since it was its decisions about permitting the waste dump that the Supreme Court cancelled in its ruling and it is to SIŽP that the case was returned for a new proceeding and hearing,” Čaputová said. According to her, SIŽP should start a new integrated process for making a decision about the waste dump.
SIŽP is also waiting for the decision.
“The SIŽP respects the ruling of the Supreme Court of the Slovak Republic,” Michal Štefánek, SIŽP spokesperson, told The Slovak Spectator, adding that the SIŽP will base its next steps on its review of the written ruling after it is received.
“We believe that the waste dump should not have been permitted because it is banned by the master-plan of the town of Pezinok, by its legally binding parts that are announced by a public statute,” Čaputová said. Public statutes issued by the municipal bodies are to be respected in the decision-making process just like laws, she added.
Even while residents’ groups sought legal means to block the dump its construction continued and, according to Ján Man junior, it already contains waste. On April 21, 2009 the dump was opened for waste to be deposited there, even though the Supreme Court ruled on April 17 that it should be temporarily closed. On April 29, citizens and activists from Pezinok blocked the entrance to the waste dump and the following day transportation of additional waste to the dump was halted.
According to Čaputová, if the responsible public administration bodies respect Slovakia’s legal framework, the waste dump cannot be allowed. She said their next steps will be taken under the Construction Act, which authorises a claim to be made to deal with an unlawfully built structure and which also allows the removal of such a structure.
The Supreme Court’s ruling is good news not only for Pezinok but also for Slovakia, especially for the municipalities, because “today it was clearly confirmed that public statutes issued by municipalities, including master-plans which are passed by municipal assemblies, simply must be respected”, said the mayor of Pezinok, Oliver Solga, shortly after the ruling, as quoted by SITA.