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Neighbours say no to Chinese embassy’s expansion plans in Woluwe

18:47 22/10/2020

Residents and politicians in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre are in agreement about plans by the Chinese embassy – situated on Avenue de Tervuren – to put up a building of 21 flats on an adjoining parcel of land. No one wants to see it happen.

The embassy has been buying up adjacent property over the years to develop housing for staff and visiting dignitaries. The new building would be located in the residential Avenue Bois du Dimanche just behind and slightly north of the embassy.

The embassy has submitted a request for a building permit for a block of flats 66 metres long and 16 metres high, which would make it double the height of the rest of the single residence homes in the street. Construction would also require demolishing the villa currently on the property as well as 28 trees.

Aside from aesthetics and the loss of green space, neighbours are worried about extra traffic and parking problems as the new building could house up to 70 people but does not appear to include off-street parking.

Chinese embassy parcels in Woluwe-Saint-PierreThe building of flats would be constructed on Avenue Bois du Dimanche, where the villa is now located

According to housing city councillor Alexandre Pirson (CdH), 173 complaints have been filed by citizens, and a petition against the building has been signed by more than 1,700 people. In addition, all political parties in the city council are unanimous in their rejection of the new building.

“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,” stated city councillors Alexia Bertrand and Anne-Charlotte d’Ursel.

It is not the city council, however, but the Brussels-Capital Region that will decide to approve the building permit, or not. According to the Woluwe council, however, several exceptions to current building codes would have to be made in order for the building to go up.

There is also talk that a meeting between the Chinese ambassador to Belgium and regional housing state secretary Pascal Smet was meant to unduly influence the minister. “We hope that the state secretary, an other members of government, are not under diplomatic pressure from China,” stated the city council’s green party.

Smet replied that this was not the case. While he had a meeting with the ambassador, he said, that is not unusual when a building permit is being sought.

Photo top: Courtesy Assar Architects

Written by Lisa Bradshaw