Uplace shopping and leisure centre loses its building permit – is this the end?
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    Uplace shopping and leisure centre loses its building permit – is this the end?

    The overturning of a building permit for the Uplace shopping and leisure complex is the “ultimate death-blow” for the project, according to opponents. The case was brought by environmental organisations Greenpeace, Bral and BBL before the Flemish council for contested permits. But the project was opposed by more than only those three.

    The plan was to build a complex at Machelen, just outside Brussels in Flemish Brabant province, which would include shops, a hotel, leisure and sporting facilities. But the ambitious plan quickly ran up against opposition: from towns from Vilvoorde to Leuven, who feared a drain shoppers from their own city centres; from mobility experts, who argued the complex would increase congestion and pollution on the Brussels Ring; from environmental groups, and from rival groups including Neo, which plans a similar complex on the Heysel.

    Legal actions were brought to overturn permits, but somehow the project soldiered on, insisting that the legal challenges would not delay the start of works on the project, situated just beside the Vilvoorde viaduct.

    Along the way, the Flemish government continued to believe in the project, among other actions by reviving an expired permit for business activity – a decision which was in turn struck down by the Constitutional Court.

    “This final death blow for an outdated project is very good news,” said a spokesperson for the three environmental organisations. “We have opposed Uplace from the outset. A huge shopping centre at a location accessible only by car is not a solution to the challenges of air pollution, climate, traffic and town planning.”

    Whether the project really has been struck a death blow, however, remains to be seen, given the obstacles it has already overcome. The company pointed out that the creation of a new legal basis has now been delegated to the municipality of Machelen, a strong supporter of the project.

    “In the coming months, Uplace will work constructively along, and remain ready to play a leading role in the socio-economic redevelopment of an old industrial site in Machelen,” said Uplace spokesperson Lies De Smedt.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times