Minister calls on local authorities to ban building in areas susceptible to flooding

The Flemish Environment and Planning Minister Zuhal Demir (nationalist) has called on local authorities to no longer allow the construction of buildings on land that is susceptible to flooding. Mr Demir made her call in response to he news that the municipal authority in Meise (Flemish Brabant) has decided to scrap plans for the construction of 300 social housing units on land that is at risk from flooding. 

Ms Demir told VRT News that “Investing in construction in this kind of area is investing in your own misery”.  

The 300 social housing units in Meise were to have been built at a site known to be susceptible to flooding during periods of excessive rainfall. In the wake of the recent storms, the municipal authorities in Meise decided that the planned social housing development will not take place at the site.

The Mayor of Meise Gerda Van den Brande (nationalist) told VRT News that “I myself have stood there with my feet covered with mud and with water up to my knees”. 

She added that "It would be outrageous to build here. It would simply create problems. We need to think about the future while we still can. The social housing definitely needs to be built, but we’re going to spread it out and we’re going to have to look elsewhere”. 

1,600 hectares

The decision taken by the municipal authorities in Meise is applauded by the Flemish Environment and Planning Minister Zuhal Demir. Ms Demir told VRT News that “If we leave sites like this over to nature it is good for our water issues and it ensures that in the future our houses are protected against flooding”.

"We have asked the city and municipal authorities to think very carefully about where they want to build. Many of them already do this meticulously. In addition to this we are going to let 1,600 hectares of land in areas where there is already construction remain unused. This is land in residential areas, areas used by industry or recreational facilities where there are currently doubts about whether or not to build. This is land where we can see on maps that it is in an area at risk from flooding, so we are no longer going to build on it. 15 million euro has been set aside for this”, Ms Demir added.  

Ms Demir concedes that the responsibility for granting planning permission lies with the local authorities and that they have the last word. However, she insists that granting planning permission for construction work to take place on land that is susceptible to flooding is “Asking for trouble. The water test rule is clear: planning permission should not be granted if the result is negative. The Flemish Government will systematically appeal against any planning permission that is granted in these kinds of cases”.  

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