Bourgeois bows out with a wave of heritage restoration grants


From Sint-Baafs Cathedral to the cobbled streets of Maarkedal, heritage was not forgotten in the last weeks of the outgoing Flemish government

For posterity

One of the quirks of the last Flemish government was that the man in the top job, minister-president Geert Bourgeois, was also responsible for the more mundane task of overseeing the region’s physical cultural heritage. This was not forgotten in the weeks running up to the election, with Bourgeois approving a tidal wave of protection orders and grants to preserve and restore historical buildings and monuments.

Top of the list of restoration grants was Sint-Baafs Cathedral in Ghent (pictured), which will receive €5 million to continue a major programme of work that began with the tower and choir. The new money will support restoration of the crypt, the choir aisle, the chapter house and the priests’ rooms.

Next was Het Steen, the remains of a castle on the river Scheldt in Antwerp, which will receive €3 million for a complete programme of restoration.

There was also a €1 million grant to restore cobblestone streets in Maarkedal, East Flanders, after disturbances caused by work to upgrade the local sewage system. These roads are both historically significant and an uncomfortable feature of the Tour of Flanders cycle race.

Smaller restoration grants involve repairs to the Williwaw sailing yacht in Antwerp, restoration of equipment at the Waterschei coalmine near Genk and work to protect the large chimney at the Agfa-Gevaert factory in Mortsel.

A full list has been compiled by Archeonet Vlaanderen.

Protected status

Vilvoorde was particularly favoured in the protection orders Bourgeois signed off before leaving office. This included the town hall, two school buildings, the Café Luminor and two notable townhouses.

Full protection was also granted to the First World War battlefield known as Bellewaarde Ridge in the Ypres district, and to a series of monumental crosses in towns around the Brussels periphery. Meanwhile trees in Riemst, Herstappe, Olen, Gent, Hooglede and Maarkedal were protected for the role they play in defining local landscapes and customs.

Among the sites granted provisional protection were First World War bunkers and trenches around Turnhout and Kapellen, and six farms built as part of the push to reconstruct former battlefields.

Provisional protection was also granted to two houses in Antwerp designed by modernist architect Léon Stynen, and to a series of commercial properties. These included the Ganterie Boon glove shop and the Ruys jeweller shop in Antwerp, and the Lambrecht pharmacy in Aalst.