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Former residents of ghost town Doel can buy back their homes

09:09 05/06/2024

Some former residents of the ghost town Doel will be able to buy back their property, according to an announcement from the Flemish government.

The town’s homes were sold to the Flemish government and vacated to accommodate an expansion of the Port of Antwerp that never ended up happening.

An agreement was reached in 2022 to ensure the village’s future. An additional dock will be built at the Port of Antwerp, but the districts of Ouden Doel, Rapenburg, Saftingen and Oud Arenberg will be preserved.

While many homes were destroyed back in 2008, to much criticism from former residents and owners, about 60 are now being offered for sale exclusively to their former owners or their heirs.

Half of the proceeds will be used for new investment in housing in Doel.

“We don’t expect a rush, but it offers opportunities,” said Jan Creve of action group Doel 2020.

“The buy-back right was legally provided for when the Flemish government could not succeed in completing the port expansions. Since those expansions will not happen now, the government must therefore offer the properties back to the former owners.”

The houses concerned are only those in the village centre and there are legal complexities, but the action group is still overall satisfied.

“It’s symbolically very important,” said Creve.

“There are some people who are thinking of buying back their former property. Yet that does not settle everything: the owners will have to renovate their houses at their own expense to be able to live in them again. This is necessary, as Doel is an old village and many of the houses are in poor condition.”

Creve believes Doel will eventually evolve back into a residential village, citing its historic value, scenic location along the river Schedlt and expected renovations from the government.

“Some monuments in the village, such as the Hooghuis, are also getting a new look,” Creve said.

Doel is also home to one of Belgium’s two nuclear power stations, though these are being phased out of operation in line with the country’s energy plans.

Written by Helen Lyons