The Flemish government has issued a negative advice on the shopping and conference complex Neo, planned for the Heysel plateau in the north of Brussels.
The plans for the first phase include 72,000 square metres of shopping centre, bars and restaurants, 590 homes, offices and day-care. A second phase would include a hotel with 250 rooms and a dedicated congress centre which was recently described in a letter from a number of major congress organisers as “outdated”.
The plan was the brainchild of former Brussels mayor Freddy Thielemans, who left office to pilot the project. And while the land is owned by and situated in the city of Brussels, the Flemish government was asked to give its advice, since the Heysel borders on the Flemish region. The advice received, however, is not binding on Brussels.
Last year Flanders gave a negative advice on the urban planning aspects of the dossier. The latest advice finds fault with the provisions for the environment and for mobility.
“The negative impact on mobility and the environment is too great,” environment minister Koen Van den Heuvel writes in the document. “Above all I consider that massive shopping centres risk having a negative effect on local businesses in nearby towns and municipalities. That is contrary to our vision of working to implement a policy of strengthening town centres.”
It is notable that the points made by Van den Heuvel are almost exactly the objections made by mobility advocates and the administrations of towns like Vilvoorde and Machelen to the shopping complex Uplace, which was supported by the previous Flemish environment minister, Joke Schauvliege.
Another opponent to that project is also opposed to Neo, and welcomed the Flemish government’s advice. Unizo is the organisation that represents the self-employed, and took Uplace to court to protect local businesses in surrounding municipalities. Unizo is now calling on the Brussels administration to review its plans for Neo, taking account of the Flemish objections.
“We are now urgently requesting an amended dossier, in which the impact on the environment is given correct and sufficient attention,” Van den Heuvel concluded. “At the same time, we are also requesting consultation on this matter.”
The Brussels authorities and the promoters of Neo have yet to respond.