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Motion tabled to request opening of Laeken's Royal Park to the public

A view of the Royal Greenhouses from the Royal Park in Laeken, Brussels (BELGA PHOTO)
07:19 25/02/2021

A motion has been tabled by the majority parties in Brussels, asking the regional government to submit a request to the Belgian Royal Donation to open up part of the Royal Park of Laeken to the public.

While the request is not a new one – many previous attempts to open the park up have been made by smaller coalitions – the Green Party, the Socialist Party and Independent Federalist Democrats (DéFi) now believe there is significant support from all sides of the house for a resolution to be tabled.  

The idea is to provide the inhabitants of the densely populated canal area with more green spaces. These needs have been further exacerbated by the current Covid-19 pandemic, with restrictions in place to prevent groups of people gathering in confined spaces.

The Royal Estate of Laeken belongs to the federal state and the Royal Donation, the state body that maintains land and buildings that the Belgian state places at the disposal of the Belgian royals. The estate and the castle at Laeken are made available to the royal family.

The royal park covers 186 hectares. Apart from the annual opening of the royal greenhouses and part of the gardens, it is closed to the public. The motion from the majority parties invites the Brussels government to ask the Royal Donation, the main owner, to open part of the park, as it has already done for Duden Park and the Jardins du Fleuriste du Stuyvenberg in Laeken.

Although the Brussels region is generally well-stocked with green spaces, these are unevenly distributed throughout the territory and are not all accessible to the public. In the canal area, where a poorer but also younger population lives, the need for green spaces is important.

Given its central location, the partial opening of the royal domain would immediately alleviate the need for nearby nature. The park would also be popular with visitors and tourists coming to Brussels. For the majority parties, it goes without saying that the privacy of the royal family must be guaranteed, as must the protection of existing flora and fauna.

The last request to open the park up, made three years ago by the former speaker of parliament, Charles Picqué, was rejected by the Royal Donation on the grounds that a partial opening to the public would entail high security costs compared, for example, to the need to build a new enclosure for the remaining part occupied by the King and his family. The City of Brussels would also be required to pay the increased monitoring costs.

Saying that the area already offers alternatives to walk, the Royal Donation also stated that the domain is also the nature reserve of rare ornithological, butterfly and amphibian species which could be put at risk by the impact increased visitors would have on their habitats.

Written by Nick Amies