European Court rejects plans for left bank of Scheldt
The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has asked the Port of Antwerp to halt the construction of a new tidal lock on the left bank of the river Scheldt, as its plans for nature compensation are not sufficient
Back to drawing board
The case concerns the regional planning programme known as Grup, drawn up in relation to the construction of a new tidal lock, which would make it possible to access the left bank of the harbour.
Doel 2020 activists have opposed the construction, arguing that it is not necessary because the Deurganck dock, which opened in June, is a long way from reaching its capacity.
The construction would mean the loss of the villages of Ouden Doel and Rapenburg, as well as areas of natural importance. The government planned to compensate the loss of natural areas by creating new and potentially larger ones elsewhere.
The European Court has now ruled that this is not enough: nature compensation may only be used in exceptional cases, where there is no real alternative, it said. The maintenance and improvement of existing natural areas, it added, has absolute priority over the replacement with new natural areas of those which have been destroyed.
According to the activist group, the Council of State must abide by the decision and has been asked to halt the regional planning programme for the port, just as it already has for the village of Doel (pictured). The verdict also affects a new project for the enlargement of the port’s container capacity. The project will now have to take into account the priority rule imposed by the court.
Antwerp Port Authority said it had taken note of the European Court’s decision and would further study the ruling with the Flemish government.
Port of Antwerp
barges entering the port daily
companies in the greater port area
tonnes of freight handled in 2012