Town and country planning: the "concrete stop" deal

The Flemish government has reached an agreement on a general town and country planning frame in Flanders. The accord has been nicknamed "betonstop" or "concrete stop", a clampdown on consuming open green space for construction projects, whether it concerns housing, industry or road infrastructure.

Flanders is densely populated as it is, but even today 6 hectares (some 15 acres) of open space are being lost on a daily basis, due to all kinds of constructions: houses, roads, businesses, sheds etc.

The 3 Flemish coalition partners (nationalists, Christian democrats, liberals) reached an agreement on how to turn the tide yesterday. The deal will be presented in detail at the Flemish Climate Summit in Ghent, today. Roughly, they decided to put a halt to consuming open space altogether by 2040. By 2025, today's figure of hectares should be halved to a maximum of 3 hectares.

Live smaller!

For this purpose, the Flemish government is encouraging people to opt for smaller houses, and to live closer together in town or city centres.

Lands that have now been labelled as building lots, can become so-called green areas where building is no longer possible. The situation is complicated, as open land in Flanders is often divided up in many smaller parts, raising ownership concerns.

A solution will be found for citizens possessing a building plot that becomes a green area. One of the options is to trade it in. They will compensated anyhow, the Flemish Environment Minister Joke Schauvliege assured.

"Life will become nicer if we live together"

Architect Leo Van Broeck thinks that in the end this will make life nicer for everyone, but the government should add fiscal incentives.

"This choice of living in the countryside is now destroying our green areas. People also become more dependent on cars. Our quality of life will not deteriorate, on the contrary. This is because we will make towns and cities greener, as we will live in them in bigger numbers."