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Chinese embassy in Brussels tries again to expand

08:10 17/09/2022

The Chinese embassy is renewing expansion plans after a previous attempt was met with fierce criticism from nearby residents in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre.

Those initial plans called for the construction of a three-story housing complex for visiting dignitaries that would dwarf the surrounding homes in the neighbourhood.

It would have also involved cutting down 28 trees and bulldozing a villa. The plans also did not include any parking space, leading neighbours to worry about an increase in cars competing for limited street parking.

The building permits were ultimately rejected.

“This project isn’t appropriate for this neighbourhood and in fact amounts to the construction of a barbed wire-fenced ‘gated community’ in the city,” local councillors said at the time.

But now the Chinese embassy is submitting a building application, still for an apartment building on its grounds in the municipality.

The newly proposed block of flats at 14 Avenue Bois du Dimanche will have more modest dimensions, Bruzz reports. It would still involve uprooting 28 trees.

When the town council rejected the first plans, it asked that new ones limit the number of storeys to two instead of three, and include fewer dwellings.

The new plans adhere to this request, shrinking the height from 16 to 13 metres and the number of dwellings from 21 to 18, but they keep the length of the building the same at 66 metres.

The building’s location has also been slightly moved so that it is somewhat further away from its neighbours and the road.

But neighbours are still worried, and have asked China and the architect to withdraw the building application based on a clause contained in the property deed of the chosen site, which states that "one or two detached villas may be built on the property, with a certain architectural character".

A court will ultimately decide on whether the clause, which was added in 1923, still applies.

Written by Helen Lyons