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Residents angered by 'Berlin Wall' noise reduction barrier
A new concrete noise barrier has been built in Wezembeek-Oppem and Kraainem, replacing a row of trees that previously separated the residential areas from the nearby busy ring road. The aim is obviously to reduce noise pollution but some residents of Wezembeek find themselves, to their dismay, with a particularly imposing new view.
For about 30 inhabitants of the Viooltjeslaan in Wezembeek, the view from their front windows now consists of a bleak grey wall made up of huge concrete plates held together by metal beams which runs parallel in front of their houses for several hundred metres. It is part of an initiative by the Flemish region to install four kilometres of noise-cancelling barriers beside the ring in both directions of traffic. In some places, such as on this street, the height of the barrier exceeds six metres.
"Before, when I woke up, I had vegetation, I had space,” said Marie-Pierre Ghyselinck, one of the residents affected. “Now, I feel like I am waking up in the middle of a prison. Unfortunately, this is not a dream. I actually live in the prison now. I’m just free to go out when I want. When I get up, almost crying, I open this blind and all I see is the wall. It's winter, okay, but I don't have any light at all."
No one on the street expected this. “Despite the proximity of the ring, we were in a quiet, airy and green area,” says Alain Borremans. “And then we find ourselves facing the Berlin Wall or a ghetto in which they want to lock us up. We're losing light. And finally, the noise doesn't change a lot, maybe a few decibels."
"It only gives us one desire, and that’s to move from here," added Armand Naimi. "But the problem is that this wall drastically devalues our houses."
The residents are ready to act, disappointed by the lack of consultation and communication with the communes responsible. "Leaving this as it is, it is not acceptable," says Marie-Pierre Ghyselinck. "All we're asking for is at least to cut that wall in half."
This is something the local authorities are unwilling to do. “This is absolutely impossible because this wall has been specifically designed and built with the aim of reducing noise within a radius of 300 metres,” said the mayor of Wezembeek-Oppem, Frédéric Petit. “That's a standard that we can't deviate from. I recall that this is a public health initiative launched at the request of the municipality, also through an association of residents who complained about the infernal noise from the ring. And so, the Flemish region has heard us and fully financed this noise barrier that replaces another that had become ineffective."
It is the stance of the local authorities that the wall will stay as it is, but the mayor remains open to discussion. "I understand the residents who are surprised by the massive appearance of this wall,” said Frédéric Petit. “On the other hand, there is certainly a way to dress up this wall or put up a natural screen." The municipality of Wezembeek-Oppem says it is open to all suggestions and will fund any development.