Public protest over felling of 400 trees to make way for new administrative centre

Public protest over felling of 400 trees to make way for new administrative centre
The planned new administrative centre © Jaspers Eyers Architects

Local residents in the centre of Brussels have protested at plans to fell 397 trees for the construction of a new state administrative centre (RAC) on the Avenue Pacheco.

The new centre, replacing the old administrative centre behind Rue Royale, will comprise not only government offices – the Finance Tower at Botanique will form part of the complex – but also apartments, shops and a school. The new RAC promises to bring new life to what is essentially an urban desert at present, but the problem of nature has raised local hackles.

The plans, signed by the Brussels city council and the region’s environmental agency, include the removal of 397 trees from what is currently a listed park in the city centre. The existing park stands on the roof of an office building, and for the new construction those trees will have to be removed to allow works to be carried out.

The developer has promised to replace those lost trees with 377 new trees on completion of the project. However local residents complain that the replacement is inadequate.

The trees have an important function in protecting against the creation of a heat-island,” said Anne Leemans of the local action committee Bel-Air, speaking to Bruzz.

An urban heat island is an area of a city where the temperature is substantially higher that surrounding rural areas, as a result of human activities. One of the major causes is the change of surface areas, most notably the paving over of land. Effects include the disturbance of rainfall patterns, and the increase in air pollution.

But the eventual replacement of the existing trees presents problems of its own, she said. “They want to replace these trees with low-branched trees, but also with exotic species, which attract a different kind of fauna – different insects, birds and so on.” Low-branched trees are more commonly used in gardens for ornamental purposes. The new trees planned include 204 plane trees, nine gingko or maidenhair trees and ten sequoia-type trees.

The local action committee is calling for the city and the agency to review the plans, but they have already done so once, adopting certain changes. The chance of them doing so again, says Bruzz, is minimal.

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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