Estonian government decides to terminate pulp mill spatial plan

Est-For Invest board member Margus Kohava.
Est-For Invest board member Margus Kohava. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The Estonian government on Thursday decided to terminate the procedure for a national designated spatial plan for the establishment of a large pulp mill by the company Est-For Invest.

"We decided to maintain our position and terminate the national designated spatial plan," Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) said at the government press conference on Thursday.

Ratas added that the company may move forward with the matter and that investors have the opportunity to begin preparations for establishing the plant in another part of Estonia. He described it as very important for any endeavour to explore opportunities to set up the plant in a specific area to have the support of the local community.

Minister of Public Administration Janek Mäggi observed that the state's interest in developing the economy, including by establishing plants that use local raw materials, has not gone anywhere. In order for it to materialise, however, a plan must be found that is acceptable to the local community as well as society as a whole.

"The termination of the national designated spatial plan does not close the door on businesses, as they can choose a different kind of planning procedure for the establishment of the plant, such as a local government designated spatial plan," Mäggi explained. "Without interest on the part of local residents and the local government, such a large-scale plant cannot and must not be established in Estonia. The main keyword is cooperation, without which it is not possible to achieve industrial or legal peace."

Three options

The Estonian government had three options to choose from.

The first was to move ahead with the national designated spatial plan and allow the Ministry of Finance to determine all significant factors for substitution the area covered by the plan. In this case, the drawing up of the national designated spatial plan for Tartu and Viljandi Counties would have been precluded, and the area substituted with a different area if possible.

The second option was for the Ministry of Finance to terminate the existing national designated spatial plan and then for the ministry to, together with other ministries, determine all significant impacts for initiating a new plan where local government agreements already exist.

The third, which was the route taken by the government, was full termination of the procedure of the national designated spatial plan and strategic environmental impact assessment.

Year and a half-long saga

In May 2017, the government launched a procedure for a national designated spatial plan to determine the most suitable location for a planned €1 billion pulp mill in Viljandi and Tartu Counties, as well as a strategic environmental impact assessment procedure to determine the planned mill's estimated impact on the environment.

Following protests by local residents and opposition from Tartu City Council and Tartu City Government, the Estonian government decided this June to initiate the termination of the procedure for the national designated spatial plan launched last spring. The Cabinet initiated the termination on 21 June, and the draft resolution was forwarded to the parties involved on 13 September.

Est-For Invest, which planned to build the large-scale pulp mill, has previously said that their plant would process some 3.3 million tonnes of pulpwood and produce up to 750,000 tonnes of output per year, primarily for export. 


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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