Flemish municipalities around Brussels are concerned

The decision of a Brussels court to have the present flight routes above the city of Brussels adapted, is bad news for some Flemish municipalities around Brussels. They fear they will have to pay the price: fewer flights above Brussels implies more flights over the Flemish area around Brussels, that is already being confronted with a lot of noisy flights. New court action is not impossible; this would only confirm the present stalemate.

A Brussels court ordered that the noise nuisance burden on the city of Brussels, caused by aeroplanes taking off from Brussels Airport in Zaventem, should be reduced. The present flight plan has to be adapted.

The present so-called "canal route" over the canal area in western Brussels in Molenbeek can no longer be used by heavy aircraft , while the flight path that involves a sharp turn to the left - and which brings low-flying planes over the municipalities of Evere, Etterbeek, Oudergem, Schaarbeek and Watermaal-Bosvoorde  - will have to be abandoned altogether. If this doesn't happen within 3 months' time, the Belgian government will be confronted with heavy fines of 50,000 euros per day.

Brussels Airport is located too close to the city of Brussels. As Zaventem is located north-east of the capital, the dominating south-westerly winds cause most of the noisy take-offs to take place above the city, against the wind. A solution that pleases everyone is impossible.

"Spread the burden equally"

The latest court decision implies that the flight paths over the Flemish municipalities north-west and north-east of Brussels will be taken more often. They are about the only alternatives. The so-called "Ring route" (named after the Brussels orbital road) and the "IKEA route" (named after the IKEA store in Zaventem/Nossegem) will pose a heavier burden on Flemish municipalities around Brussels such as Grimbergen, Dilbeek, Zaventem, Tervuren and Vilvoorde.

New flight paths can be worked out, but this will take longer than the 3 months the court has given the Belgian state to make the necessary changes. The new Flemish minister responsible for matters that concern the Flemish area around Brussels, Ben Weyts of the N-VA, says "we will look at the court ruling in detail first, but it seems fair to me that everyone will have to bear an equal part of the burden." Mr Weyts adds that "an agreement was reached by the different parties and the different language communities in the past. This can be used as a basis for new talks."

Marleen Mertens, the Burgomaster of Grimbergen (photo), is unhappy with the latest decision. "We reached a deal within the previous government. This should be respected. It's a pity a Brussels judge has taken this decision. You can't change the airport's location, so everybody should bear a part of the nuisance."

The Mayor adds that "if it turns out that we are not treated equally, we will consider new court action." The mayors in other municipalities, including Walter Vansteenkiste (Wemmel) and Jan Spooren (Tervuren) will also look into the latest ruling in more detail.