Isle off Knokke: De Backer asks Weyts for alternatives

The Secretary of State for the North Sea, Philippe De Backer (Open Vld) on Wednesday asked Flemish Public Works Minister Ben Weyts (New Flemish Alliance, N-VA) to come up with alternatives to the artificial island planned off Knokke.

The Government of Flanders wishes to use the experimental artificial island to see if such a structure can better protect the seaside resort from strong tempests. However, Knokke Mayor Leopold Lippens came out against the project. De Backer then announced, on Tuesday, that the island could not be built for the moment because it did not comply with the conditions of the Marine Spaces Management Plan, MRP.

Weyts reacted on Wednesday, saying that he was surprised at his colleague’s statements since the MRP was still the subject of a public inquiry until September and no application for an authorization to build the test island had been submitted.

De Backer responded that “the MRP was approved at first reading in the Council of Ministers”, that “the conditions, criteria and need for a scientific justification were clearly defined” and that “the protection of the Coast is the exclusive responsibility of Flanders, therefore of Minister Weyts”.

“It is therefore up to our colleague minister to indicate which alternative represents the best solution for the protection of the coast, within the conditions imposed by the MRP. We need to find, for future generations, the best solution that will not hurt the inhabitants, businesses and tourism. We need to find these solutions through constructive consultation and by following the described procedures coherently,” De Backer concluded.

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