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The Canal: central to the plans of Brussels’ new government

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2014-07-20 – The Canal Area features prominently in the General Policy Statement of Brussels’ new Government, presented to the Regional Parliament by the Minister-President on Sunday.

A new Regional backbone

The Minister-President explained that “The Government intends to prioritise the development of certain areas and focus public resources on them. Specifically, government action will make a priority of turning the Canal Area into a new Regional backbone and developing ten new districts. It is my belief that the regeneration of the Canal Area will be emblematic of the regeneration of Brussels! It is by the Canal that we will successfully create the Brussels of 2025!

In the Minister-President’s view, “The Canal Area is a ​​2,850-hectare zone which has enormous potential but is underutilised, including 313 hectares of public land. At present, though, it also represents a fault-line and the most visible sign of social and territorial inequality in our Region. Transforming this area into a new centre for the creation of new sites for economic activity, living spaces consisting of housing, schools and amenities and public spaces will therefore be my Government’s priority. This is also why my Government will proceed with the creation of a museum of modern and contemporary art of international stature on the Citroën site at Yser, to be opened before the end of this Parliament.This prioritisation of the Canal requires the focused allocation of public funds throughout this area with the objective of creating, by 2025, no fewer than 200 hectares of residential sites (representing 25,000 potential new dwellings), 200 hectares of sites for businesses that will create jobs and 200 hectares of public spaces, parks and gardens. To achieve this ambitious goal, the Government will continue with the implementation of the Canal Plan that was launched following an international competition. This challenge is immense and will require intense collaboration on the part of all public authorities, and above all of the municipalities through which the Canal passes.”

Ten new districts

The Minister-President also added that “The government has identified ten new districts for construction,” several of which are in the Canal Area: “the Schaerbeek-Formation and Tour & Taxis sites, (...) the Midi district, the site of the Gare de l’Ouest railway station”. He specified that “the development of these districts on disused railway sites, areas earmarked for urbanisation and conversion sites requires a comprehensive and cross-cutting strategy to harness the development opportunities in the short and medium term. (...) These new districts represent our response to the demographic and economic challenges facing our Region. We have no choice: we must succeed! (...) Some of these projects are already in the planning phase or even at various stages of implementation, while for others the process will need to be launched from the start of the legislature. The objective is simple but fundamental! We need to build accessible, suitable housing that meets the objective of ensuring a social mix, new public spaces and public facilities, while also encouraging the establishment of new businesses in Brussels and ensuring good public transport services and systematically providing a separate network of cycle routes. That is why housing policy will focus on the construction of 6,500 new units of public housing, primarily located in these ten new districts. This is why a number of Region-wide sectoral economic hubs will be developed especially in the context of the new districts, such as the media hub at Reyers or the logistical hub at Schaerbeek-Formation. It is also why the Government will create new green and public spaces in the priority districts, such as the 10-hectare park in Tour & Taxis, an urban public park on the Reyers site, a green and recreational space at Beco West and further green spaces at locations such as Porte de Ninove, Josaphat, and Gare de l’Ouest.”

At the same time, the Minister-President stressed that “this prioritisation of our action and concentration of resources in the Canal Area and the ten priority development zones will not of course prevent the Government from continuing or initiating the development of other districts in line with Regional needs.”