On 5 February 2014, the "parking provisions" of the Brussels Code on Air, Climate and Energy Management entered into force.

The Brussels Code on Air, Climate and Energy Management (Brussels wetboek van lucht, klimaat en energiebeheersing /Code Bruxellois de l'Air, du Climat et de la Maîtrise de l'Energie , abbreviated BWELKE/COBRACE , hereinafter referred to as the "Code") was adopted on 2 May 2013.

The purpose of the parking provisions of the Code is to limit vehicular traffic in Brussels by restricting the number of available parking spaces at office buildings in the Brussels-Capital Region, thereby encouraging people who work in the city to use public transport.  

The new provisions will apply to every application to obtain a new environmental permit or to extend or renew an existing environmental permit for office buildings in the Brussels-Capital Region, submitted after 5 February 2014 (Article 4.3.1 of the Code).

It should be noted that the parking provisions apply only to parking spaces at office buildings; thus, they do not apply to residential properties, public parking facilities, shopping centres, hotels, etc. 

Permitted number of parking spaces

In each new environmental permit or extension/renewal of an existing environmental permit for office buildings in the Brussels-Capital Region, the number of permitted parking spaces will be mentioned. The number of permitted spaces will be determined on the basis of the following two criteria:

  • the location of the office building (i.e. accessibility by public transport); and
  • the surface area of the offices (in m²)

Location

The Brussels-Capital Region will be divided into three zones: A, B and C:

  • class A: most accessible;
  • class B: good accessibility; and
  • class C: fair accessibility.

The classification of an office building will thus depend on its accessibility by public transport, i.e. walking distance from the building to the nearest train or underground station, the frequency of public transport, and the time of day (during or outside peak hours, etc.). A detailed description of the zones and classification criteria can be found in Article 2.3.53 of the Code.

A plan indicating the three zones is available on the website of the Brussels-Capital Region (www.leefmilieubrussel.be).

Surface area of the offices

The number of "permitted parking spaces" is determined as follows:

  • for buildings in zone A:
    • 2 parking spaces for the first 250 m2
    • plus 1 parking space per 200 m2 of additional office space;
  • for buildings in zone B:
    • 1 parking space per 100 m2 of office space;
  • for buildings in zone C :
    • 1 parking space per 60 m2 of office space.

The difference between the actual number of parking spaces and the number of permitted parking spaces is referred to as the "surplus parking spaces".

Exemptions

In some cases, for example hospitals and cleaning companies which require a large number of vehicles or companies which are frequently visited by customers or visitors, an exemption can be obtained from the aforementioned criteria, in order to have more permitted parking spaces (Article 2.3.54 §4).

Surplus parking spaces

For surplus parking spaces, there are three possibilities:

  • make the surplus parking spaces available to the public;
  • stop using the surplus parking spaces for parking purposes and put them to another use (e.g. archives); or
  • continue using the surplus spaces and pay an environmental tax.

If the third possibility is chosen, an annual environmental tax will be due. The base amount of the tax is:

  • 450 euro per parking space per year in zone A;
  • 350 euro per parking space per year in zone B;
  • 250 euro per parking space per year in zone C.

These amounts are (i) subject to indexation and (ii) increased by 10% per year for the first 15 years (cumulative increase).

In the event of non-compliance with the environmental permit or if no environmental permit is obtained, these amounts will be doubled.

For office buildings in zone C, the environmental tax will only apply as from 2022.

Impact on lease agreements

Most lease agreements provide that all taxes and duties with respect to the leased premises are to be borne by the tenant. As a result, the environmental tax on surplus parking spaces used by a tenant, will have to be paid by the latter, depending on the exact wording of the relevant clause in the lease agreement. 

Conclusion

An extension of an environmental permit must be applied for at least one year prior to expiry of the permit (the standard period of validity is 15 years), which means that more than 1 year before the end of the period of validity of the existing permit, owners, property managers and even tenants of office buildings in the Brussels-Capital Region should start (re)considering their parking policy, the possibility to stop using some available parking spaces and who shall pay the environmental tax if parking spaces which qualify as surplus parking spaces are continued to be used.