European Court rejects plans for left bank of Scheldt

Summary

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 European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has declared the Flemish government’s plans for nature compensation on the left bank of the river Scheldt to be in breach of EU law. The decision means the government and Antwerp Port Authority will have to review their plans for a new dock on the left bank, according to local activist group Doel 2020.

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.

Photo: LimoWreck/Wikimedia

Port of Antwerp

The port of Antwerp is Europe’s second-largest port and one of the world’s most important ports for container traffic.
Going green - The port’s first-ever sustainability report won it the Award for Best Belgian Sustainability Report.
Size - The port takes up more space than the actual city of Antwerp.
Roots - Historians have found evidence for the port’s existence dating back to the 12th century.
154

barges entering the port daily

900

companies in the greater port area

184

tonnes of freight handled in 2012