Miroslav Ludvík sits behind a desk in his office, stacks of documents in front of him. “The described papers – and we still don’t know what we’re on,” he says in a somewhat resigned voice.
Ludvík is the head of the company Enlino, which in Žehušice in the Kutnohorsk region owns the castle grounds and with it the field in which white deer have been bred for 190 years – a world-unique species of game with light fur and blue eyes, whose origin is still a bit of a mystery.
For several years now, the company has been trying to establish another field, and thanks to it, breeding can be better secured.
But it alludes to what Miroslav Ludvík mentions above the files and maps spread out on the table: Even after endless correspondence with the authorities, he still does not have the decision in his hands as to whether the nature reserve can be created or not.
It is also because the officials – and this is confirmed in black and white – wanted the company to complete meaningless tasks and secure documents that, according to the law, they should not have asked for as part of the approval of the field.
White deer reserve
The Žehušická nature reserve was founded in 1867 by the Thun-Hohenstein noble family and its area is 270 hectares. A herd of white deer in the number of about 130 animals is kept in the reserve. The first deer were imported here in 1780, apparently from Persia or the Caucasus. The Žehušická nature reserve was declared a natural monument in 1920 and is not open to the public.
And now, due to repeated mistakes and delays, this case has even been taken away from them by the superior regional office. And he will deal with the field permit himself.
The first application for the establishment of a new game reserve was submitted by a company belonging to an Austrian businessman in June 2020. The plan was that another one would be created a few kilometers from the main castle game reserve, where part of the 150 game animals would be moved. Among other things, for safety.
“There is a growing risk that an infection will break out in the park. And then we will lose this rare breed. That’s why it’s better to have deer in two places,” explains Ludvík from Enlino.
The company did not anticipate problems: the nature reserve was to be created in its own forest and, in its opinion, it documented everything that the law required – for example, a study prepared by experts, the statement of the veterinary administration and a simple drawing of the boundaries of the nature reserve on a map. She sent the documents to the environmental department of the Municipal Office in Přelouč, under which the future field falls.
However, a year and a half of confusion has passed since the application was submitted in 2020, when it was not entirely clear how to officially authorize the new branch and what the application should look like. “It took a long time to figure it out,” admits Jan Feranec, head of the environment department at the Přelouč town hall.
When the procedure was already resolved, they began to make various demands on the Department of the Environment, many of which were then canceled by the regional appeals office. On the grounds that the municipal authority had broken the law and that these were obligations it should not have required at all.
For example: One of the first demands of city officials was that the company should first fence off the field. Of course, after obtaining a building permit.
However, the company had already documented the opinion of the Ministry of Agriculture in writing, according to which a fence is not a condition for the creation of a nature reserve – because theoretically there is a risk that the nature reserve will not receive a stamp and the money spent on the fence will be wasted. “Another procedure could lead to the fact that a fence will be built, and subsequently the nature reserve will not be recognized,” wrote Martin Žižka, head of the department of forests, hunting and fishing, in the opinion.
The Přelouč officials also demanded that the company list the names and addresses of people who own land in the neighborhood of the nature reserve – because they will be parties to the proceedings. The Regional Appeals Office also abolished this obligation, stating that the town hall officials should find out this information themselves. Reasoning that it’s their job. Likewise, according to the region, the request for veterinarians’ comments on the conditions of deer breeding was unreasonable.
In other decisions, the Municipal Office in Přelouč rejected the request for the field, saying that a random check found errors in the description of the land, which will be part of the future hunting. It’s simply that the parcel numbers or the area sizes don’t match, for example.
But the region countered this again during the appeal, saying that it is not possible to point out errors to the applicant at random like this. If anything, list all the inaccuracies at once – because otherwise the applicant could fill in the documents endlessly.
“This fact can ultimately lead to a situation where an unfamiliar applicant removes only part of the defects in good faith and out of ignorance. An absurd situation may then arise, when he will be repeatedly called upon to supplement and eliminate defects based on further random checks,” the regional office pointed out in a decision from this July.
The regional office stated that both parties made mistakes in the entire procedure, but that in Přelouč “there is no obvious effort by the administrative body to actively help the applicant to eliminate the defects.”
Who is throwing sticks at whom?
This is precisely why the company thinks that officials are throwing sticks under its feet. And they are just looking for ways to constantly extend the process of allowing the field. “The duty of the office is to proceed in such a way that the office grants the request – if the applicant submits everything he has. And not for the official to invent more and more, excuse me, expedient nonsense,” says the lawyer of the Sehnal company.
The Přelouč officials defend themselves firstly by saying that for a long time it was not clear according to the laws how exactly the process of permitting a new field of study should take place and what the authorities should demand from the applicants. And the ministries only recently unified the procedure. “Everyone says something a little different. And then we fly in it,” opposes Jan Feranec, head of the environment department at the Municipal Office in Přelouč.
According to Ferance, the applicant company, for example, had huge errors in the documents for the recognition of the branch. That is, when documenting the mentioned plots of land, which, according to Ferance, did not agree with the area, cadastral numbers or even the actual location.
“And we went to such a crazy amount of work with it. We went through it plot by plot and put it in order,” says Feranec, spreading multi-page Excel spreadsheets across the table. But this is exactly what the superior authority decided in July – as already mentioned: that finding out the exact documents is their job.
The Přelouč officials also object that the company did not wait for the decision on the nature reserve and finally fenced off the forest some time ago anyway. From their point of view, it is a building built without a permit. And this is another circumstance that, according to them, prevents the creation of the field.
Authority: The fence is a black structure
He does not believe the official justification of the company, that it is a so-called fence – a temporary protection of the forest, for example against wild animals. They point out that nine kilometers of massive fence winds around the forest.
“It’s a black building that they’re trying to legalize now,” says Feranec, head of the environment department.
The company admits it could have been more restrained in this regard. At the same time, it refers to the official opinion of the Ministry for Regional Development. “This building does not require a decision on the location of the building and, at the same time, neither a building permit nor a similar action by the building authority,” wrote Marcela Pavlová, deputy for managing the construction and public investment section, in a letter from November 2020.
After all, the regional office also told Přelouč in its decisions that the local officials should not solve the fence – that it is not related to the recognition of the field. Let that be decided in another proceeding.
“Yes, we got ahead of ourselves a bit with the fencing,” admits lawyer Sehnal. “But on the other hand: The client had a black and white from the Ministry for Regional Development that there was nothing preventing the construction of the fence,” he explains.
Most recently, the regional office took the entire case from the officials from Přelouč and will decide on the forest itself. Reason? According to the region, the Přelouč office is “inactive” – it did not comply with the regulation from March of this year to issue a verdict on the nature reserve within 30 days at the latest.
After more than three years since the application was submitted, the company still does not know if it will be able to establish the branch. Although at the beginning everything seemed to her like a fairly simple official operation. In addition, when the nature reserve is located in the middle of its own land, and therefore any disputes with neighbors are eliminated.
The company also assures that the forest with the field will be accessible to people – for walks or for mushrooms. Entry points with revolving gates will be created in the fence.