Ban lifted on building in newly protected woodlands

Summary

Geert Bourgeois is withdrawing a controversial map that makes it difficult for land-owners to build on parcels of land containing protected trees

‘Poor management’

Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois has withdrawn the controversial Bosplan which was approved by the government early last week. The Bosplan showed the location of woodlands that would be protected, despite being zoned as residential or agricultural.

Anyone who owned the land was effectively banned from building. The effect of Bourgeois’ decision – though he is not the minister charged with environmental concerns – is to lift the moratorium, which could lead to a surge in the felling of trees. Local authorities are anticipating a flood of applications for building permits this week.

“There are a lot of people who have a building permit, but who would be unable to build because of the moratorium,” Bourgeois said. “That goes against the principle of good management.” Instead of countless small parcels of what cannot really be considered woodland, he said, the region needs a coherent and consistent policy on woodland as a whole.

Environment minister Joke Schauvliege said she had not been consulted on the withdrawal of the map, but welcomed the decision to revise the decree that put it in place. “This is not a government decision,” she said. “But I am happy that N-VA has made an about-turn. I was the only one who expressed misgivings about the planned woodland protection, and I was dismissed as a woodland barbarian.”

Municipalities now expect an avalanche of requests for planning permission, which councils no longer have any justification for refusing.

Photo: Westtoer/Visit Flanders