Federal ministers this week approved a new Maritime Plan for the North Sea – which no longer includes a project to create an artificial island off the coast of Knokke. The test island came as a proposal from the Flemish government, and was intended to help protect the coast at Knokke from severe storms, which are becoming more regular. The plan was opposed by Baron Leopold Lippens, the mayor of Belgium’s most exclusive seaside town, who claimed it would ruin the view from the seafront of the town and turn away tourists.
The idea also, according to federal secretary of state for the North Sea Philippe De Backer, did not meet the conditions of the Maritime Plan. “Flanders did not demonstrate in time, with a cost-benefit analysis and an environmental impact report, that such an island is the best and only way to protect our coast from storms,” De Backer said. The maritime plan does, he said, include other plans for improving coastal protection.
For Flemish minister for public works Ben Weyts, however, the objection is purely formal. “The secretary of state has assured me that nothing has changed regarding the test island,” he said after the results of the ministers’ decision were announced. “Even in its amended form, De Backer’s plan makes the creation of a test island perfectly possible.”
Other aspects of the plan include a doubling of the generating capacity of wind turbines at sea, to the west of the existing zone, close to the French border and invisible from the beach. It also allows for zones dedicated to new industrial activities such as desalination of sea-water, the cultivation of seaweed and other forms of aquaculture such as raising mussels and oysters.
The plan comes into force next March, and runs until 2026.