Procedures and Permits for Industrial Building Projects in Finland
Every industrial project in Finland requires a number of permits for which different authorities are each responsible. The different procedures are independent of one another, with no centralised procedure in the sense of “one-stop shopping.”
Many procedures also entail public hearings and/or obtaining statements, which require budgeting for time. Therefore, it is important to plan out procedures from the beginning and dovetail them appropriately in order to adhere to the project schedule.
Planning and communication
The processing time for different permit applications is little more foreseeable than the question of whether or not the authorities in individual cases will be satisfied right away with the documentation handed in.
But the uncertainty arising from this in terms of the schedule can be mitigated to a considerable extent through proactive and close communication with the officials in charge. Finnish authorities are very open-minded about directly exchanging information, and clerks are usually responsive to an informal phone call or even available for meetings. You should make use of this opportunity.
Permits unrelated to the industry
At the beginning, there is municipal land-use planning, which in many cases has to be adapted for the planned project. This is a decision process at the level of local politics, but preparation is often done in cooperation with the project owner (and frequently at their own expense).
Likewise, the environmental impact assessment has to be done in an early stage of preparation if the size of the project makes this a requirement.
Actual licensing procedures include the following in particular:
The building licence (under building law) from the municipality is based on urban land-use planning.
An environmental permit, which is generally issued by regional environmental authorities, certifies the planned action’s compatibility with environmental values and investigates disruptions for neighbours.
A separate water permit is required for any use of natural water bodies.
Other permits for traffic regulation, over- and underpasses on streets and rails, interference with air traffic due to high buildings, impact on nature reserves or similar may be required.
The Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) is far and away the most important licensing authority for industrial plant construction. Their scope of responsibility includes supervising a multitude of industrial applications.
The Tukes work areas most relevant to plant construction cover all plants in the gas sector (particularly liquefied gases, natural gas, and LNG), containers for chemicals, pressure tanks, and electrical and measurement engineering.
Particularly plants in which chemicals are going to be processed, transported, or stored on a large scale, require a prior construction licence from Tukes. Natural gas also counts as one of the chemicals.
The licence must generally be present before construction starts. This is issued upstream through a public hearing. If the project comes under the scope of the mandatory environmental impact assessment, this has to be present before applying. All of this must be taken into consideration during project scheduling.
If the project requires a construction licence, it generally also needs an operating licence which is issued after completion and a commissioning test.
Other licensing authorities specific to the industry
Not all projects fall under Tukes’s scope of responsibility. Depending on the object of the project, one or more other licensing authorities may be relevant. These include:
Finland’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) is the authority for monitoring and licensing nuclear plants, but also for industrial applications in which radiation is used or formed.
The Finnish Medicines Agency, Fimea, issues permits for manufacturing and selling pharmaceutical products.