More land in Flanders was reclassified as open space compared to 2020
Since 2020, more land has been classified as open space in Flanders: land that was originally classified as industrial or residential area, and that is being converted to nature, forest or agriculture. This was shown on Thursday by figures from the Department of Environment, which were communicated by Flemish minister of Environment Zuhal Demir.
In the period 2014-2019, 646 ha of land designated as open space disappeared in Flanders. This trend has been reversed since 2019-2020, as this number has grown by 1,595 ha since then. "An important evolution and the way forward," says Demir. "The importance of space for water and greenery was misunderstood for far too long, but that has clearly and rightly changed in recent years."
The figures are not about demolishing industry, for example, in favour of nature or agriculture, but rather reallocating land that was originally reserved as an industrial or residential area to nature, forest or agriculture, clarifies Andy Pieters, spokesman for the minister.
This trend should continue in the coming years, as the government of Flanders has decided that local authorities will no longer receive subsidies for their municipal spatial implementation plans, if these lead to additional occupation of open space.
Moreover, in the next parliamentary year, Demir will also introduce a decree that provides for planological neutrality. This means that local governments will only be able to convert open space to residential or industrial use if at least as many hard-surfaced projects are scrapped at the same time.
People walking in the Hallerbos, Flanders, Belgium. - © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK