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More than 11,000 sign petition to stop development of Josaphat site
More than 11,000 people have signed a petition against the urban renewal project being discussed for the Josaphat site in Schaerbeek. The Capital-Region wants to develop the currently unused 25 hectares of land into a housing and industrial zone.
The Josaphat site, near the park of the same name, was a former marshalling yard but has been unused since 1994. The rails were eventually removed, and nature took over, creating a kind of urban wilderness. The site is home to naturally growing grasses, plants and shrubbery and is dotted with pools.
The site has become a rich home for insects, particularly dragonflies and bees. In fact, 120 different species of bees have been recorded on the site, an incredibly diverse number for the size of the area. One of the species found on the site this summer (Anthidium septemspinosum) had never been seen in Belgium before.
The regional government has drawn up a development plan for the site that includes 1,400 flats, a school, a creche, a hotel and an industrial zone. There would be rooftop gardens, trees between the buildings and a strip of green space along the rail still existing on the site, used by line 26, which runs from Vilvoorde to Halle.
The 25-hectare Josaphat site would become a mixed-use development ©MSA-Assymetrie
The plan as it stands was rejected by the region’s development commission, and the region is now amending it to resubmit, reportedly with few housing units. A coalition of activists and residents, meanwhile, launched a petition to get the region to scrap the plan altogether.
“Our regional government wants to prepare Brussels residents for life in a city with stronger heat waves and fewer (and less varied) bird and insect populations,” reads the petition. “At the same time, it is pursuing an urban development policy that flies in the face of its ‘environmental’ ambitions and its discourse on ecological urgency – projects that contradict the objectives and ambitions of the GoodMove mobility plan, the Regional Sustainable Development Plan and the Energy-Climate Plan.”
The petition asks authorities for a moratorium on the project as well as on other projects that do not compensate for any destruction of biodiversity. It also insists that citizens be included in development policies. “Citizens do not want to be consulted about plans already drawn up but rather before the procedure begins,” it reads.
Photo top: ©Natagora Bernard Pasau/BELGA