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Brussels approves plans for redevelopment of Place Royale

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM: illustration picture shows the Sint-Jacob-op-Koudenberg Kerk - Eglise Saint-Jacques-sur-Coudenberg - Church of Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg and a statue of Godfried van Bouillon - Godefroy de Bouillon - Godfrey of Bouillon on the Koningsplein - Place Royale square in Brussels (BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS LAMBERT)
09:26 12/01/2021

The City of Brussels has given the green light to modified plans for the redevelopment of the Place Royale. The revamped design will be the subject of a public consultation before final approval is given, Ans Persoons, the council member responsible for urban planning and public space, announced on Monday.

The modified plans presented by federal investment fund Beliris, which replace those for a more minimalist revamp which had been considered by the Consultative Committee in October 2018, will see the roundabout on the square beside the Royal Palace disappear and 80% of the space reserved for pedestrians.

A redesign of the area is well overdue. The cobblestone road surface has been worn down, pedestrians have access to only small areas of the square and the traffic configuration, with trams and cars fighting for priority at the roundabout, has long been the cause of congestion problems and accidents. The new plans, with the roundabout being replaced by a classic intersection allowing trams and cars to follow the same route, is expected to drastically improve the traffic situation. Trams will also be given priority by a new, modified traffic control system.

Most of the square will be given over to pedestrians meaning the statue of Godfried van Bouillon will no longer be an island surrounded by traffic but the central focal point of an expanded pedestrian zone.

This is the second time that the plans for the square have been modified. The first plan presented by Beliris in 2014 was quickly rejected leading to a new draft four years later which included wider pavements, offering 20% of space to pedestrians, but without a new traffic configuration. This plan was also abandoned after criticism that it was not ambitious enough.

Beliris went back to the drawing board and came up with the current design which has now been approved, pending the results of the public consultation. "The space for car traffic is now clearly delineated," said Ans Persoons in a press release. "This frees up a sea of space and makes it easier to move around the square."

Brussels mayor Philippe Close pointed out that the square is underused due to the current layout. "The square is a tourist attraction and after the works there will finally be room for everyone," he said.

State secretary for urban planning Pascal Smet said that the "emblematic square deserves a redevelopment" and said hhe was pleased that the region's efforts to achieve a consensus have now yielded positive results.

When the work begins on the square depends on the results of the public consultation, during which citizens and interest groups will be able to view the new plans, and the final approval of the Consultative Committee.

Written by Nick Amies