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Traders reopen Justice Palace ramps to cars during parking protest

The entrance building of the Poelaert underground parking garage in front of the Brussels Court House (BELGA PHOTO HERWIG VERGULT)
06:02 10/05/2021

About 60 people, according to estimates released by the Brussels-Ixelles police, symbolically reopened the ramps of the Brussels Justice Palace to traffic during a demonstration against the city’s parking policy on Saturday morning.

The protesters were mainly made up of shop owners and workers from the area around the courthouse on Place Poelaert, according to Michel Deschuytere, president of the Bruegel and Marolles trade association.

A police spokesperson revealed that the flower containers that prevent cars using the ramps that lead to the courthouse as a parking space were moved by protestors, allowing access for about 15 minutes before being put back in place at the end of the rally. No cars took advantage of the temporary reopening during that time.

"We want a positive communication policy on the accessibility of the city centre by car, with signs to the car parks," said Michel Deschuytere. "Customers from Woluwe, Uccle, Ath or Nivelles should be able to easily find parking. Otherwise, trade will be extinguished in the centre.

"We don't want a downtown that is just for events. We want people to come to discover smaller, more personal shops, to enjoy a friendly atmosphere, where there are no shopping malls."

Traders claim they have seen a significant drop in their turnover caused by the mobility policies of the City of Brussels and the Region. "The regional Good Move plan must have been devised by officials in offices, who have never had to work with variable incomes," Deschuytere continued.

"We are currently in a colossal anti-car phase, but public transport in Brussels is still very centralised. We don't have a local clientele, because the Marolles is one of the poorest areas in Belgium and the area around it also has a particularly poor population.

"Our clientele comes from the two Brabants and the rich green belt of Brussels and it has no public transport to reach the centre. They are typically 50 to 80 years old and don’t ride a bike or scooter," he said.

He also pointed out that the size of items sold often requires transport by car: "There is a systematic loss of parking spaces in public space redevelopment projects. We lost 50 places during the renovation of the Place de la Chapelle and we lost 500 on 1 March when the ramps of the courthouse were closed."

Traders also claim that this closure has cut off a communication route between the lower and upper parts of the city.

Written by Nick Amies