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Political flavour to Editions & Séminaires event

Laurence de Hemptinne with Philippe Close
Laurence de Hemptinne with Philippe Close

The latest in the series of real estate seminars by Editions & Séminaires (Laurence de Hemptinne) took place in the centre of Brussels yesterday. As one of the speakers was new Brussels city mayor Philippe Close, and there were debates on legislation etc. we will concentrate on this aspect for this report.

Philippe Close started by saying that it was the job of the authorities to provide an urban environment and infrastructure which would enable people and businesses to locate in Brussels. A major priority has been schools, and some 4,000 new school places have been created over the past few years, along with 600 crèche places.
Moving on to the thorny question of the new football stadium, he presented a slide which still has the existing Roi Baudouin stadium in place. If this were to remain, he affirmed, it would not affect the development of the Europea part of the Heysel plateau redevelopment (Neo). However, he also said that the new stadium is not dead, and the Flemish government has to act. Where the overall Neo project is concerned, the new PRAS has been modified, the delay having been in convincing all interested parties. The investors are in place, and the project is progressing.

Another thorny issue is the pedestrian zone in the city centre. Following Philippe Close were Paul Lievevrouw and his colleagues from SUMProject, in charge of this zone. They confirmed that the work will now be in 3 phases, and authorization for the first two of these has been grnted. A great amount of green space, they said, will open out the city centre rather than close it, but east-west car connections will remain. Regarding cars, Philippe Close revealed that a new permit for a 200 space car park at the Place Rouppe was just being granted. He also conceded that the shops of the city centre have suffered from the current version, that discussions would take place with them, and that accessibility to the city centre has to be permanently adapted. But the ‘great ambition’ of a pedestrian zone will be continued.

Political bottleneck

The head of the new urban administration (BUP) Bety Waknine, was next on stage, and she outlined the new PAD (planning masterplan) regulation, which was designed to speed things up, having equal weight as a PRAS. She also said the provisions of the PPAS would be softened.

Speaking partially as CEO of Atenor, and partially as vice-president of UPSI, Stéphan Sonneville did not mince his words. The problems in Brussels, he said, were not administrative in nature, but political. He accepted the fine ambitions of the political authorities and their bodies, but still regretted the constant divergence of opinion between communal and regional authorities, which are putting a brake on everything. He later found agreement from a perhaps unlikely source: Viviane Teitelbaum, Planning Officer for the commune of Ixelles (and a Regional Deputy) who agreed that politicians are the problem. Her commune, she said, had been waiting 10 years for a PPAS to be approved by the Region. It will be remembered that Stéphan Sonneville has often complained that the Victor project around the Gare du Midi, which everyone agrees is vital, had been waiting 8 years…

On the other side of the coin, however, Gaétan Van Goidsenhoven, who holds similar positions but in the commune of Anderlecht, said the new PAD was dangerous, because it concentrated power in the hands of the Region and even of the Minister President.

Clearly a lot of debating still to come, and it is by no means clear whether Brussels will ever be able to compete with other European cities which are able to look to one source for a decision.
Tim Harrup

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