Uplace is a big shopping mall and detention centre that should be built beside the fly-over of the Brussels Orbital Road in Machelen/Vilvoorde, on former industrial estates. The grounds were cleared and contaminated land remediation was applied.
However, the project had as many supporters as critics from the day the idea was first launched, some 10 years ago. The Vilvoorde Mayor was afraid it would seriously harm the local self-employed businesses in his city, and traffic experts warned against mobility and health issues (more traffic jams, more particulate matter in the air in an area which is suffering quite some pollution already).
Supporters said it would revive the unattractive area, bring jobs and please people, who would have more opportunities for shopping, cultural outings and relaxation.
However, after various years of legal struggling, the Council of State recently rejected the Regional Planning Permit a second time, a heavy blow for supporters and probably the end of the project.
Bonte sees three benefits: health, green area and young families
Speaking in De Standaard, Hans Bonte (Flemish socialist) is now proposing to make a natural area of the empty fields. This would serve a three-fold purpose, he says. "First of all, the woods would be a good thing to fight air pollution. It's the place with the highest concentration of particulate matter in the region at present. Second, we could build a green corridor just outside Brussels."
"But most of all, it's an opportunity to give young local families a green alternative. The population in Machelen and Vilvoorde is growing fast. I only see benefits", Bonte summed up.
The Flemish PM Geert Bourgeois (nationalist) has already said he wants to meet the Mayors of Machelen and Vilvoorde to discuss the future of the site after the latest developments.