While it was seemingly already decided last week, the municipal council of Anderlecht officially announced it will completely redesign the new traffic circulation plan in the Cureghem district, announced mayor Fabrice Cumps on Tuesday.
Last week, Cumps announced that the municipality would "start from scratch" on its circulation plan and remove the concrete blocks that had been placed throughout Cureghem. On Tuesday morning, the Council formally reached an agreement on it.
"The Council took note of the emotions that arose in the Cureghem district following the introduction of the test phase of the new local mobility plan," said Cumps in a long Facebook post on Tuesday. "Different opinions were expressed regarding the effectiveness and efficiency of the measures, but it must be acknowledged that public support for the plan is not sufficient at this stage."
Since the traffic plan was implemented in August, it faced a lot of criticism and protest: concrete blocks to stop traffic on certain streets were dragged away in the middle of the night; road signs were painted over and traffic flow arrows mysteriously changed. Additionally, a petition to scrap the plan gathered nearly 6,000 signatures.
The current plan will be discontinued and the authorities will resume discussions with residents to define a new working method. "This method will be based on exchanges with local residents in a smaller framework, at the level of micro-neighbourhoods." Extra attention will be paid to the flow of public transport, for which "interesting results" were already observed at the beginning of the test phase.
Additionally, Cureghem's biggest criticism of the plan – which was that the neighbourhood has more urgent problems than local mobility, such as financial hardships exacerbated by the current cost of living crisis – will also be addressed, Cumps assured.
"Safety, prevention, cleanliness, civic participation, housing, employment, social cohesion and youth are also priority issues for the neighbourhood," he explained. "This neighbourhood deserves a comprehensive revitalisation plan in consultation with residents."
However, Cumps stressed, it was "very important" for calm to be restored in the discussions around the mobility issue. "This is the reason for today's decision and our desire to resume consultations with local residents in order to draw up a new mobility plan as soon as possible, which everyone understands is necessary."
Restoring the peace
Anderlecht Mobility Councillor Susanne Müller-Hübsch added that the first discussions with the Cureghem locals are planned to take place on Wednesday. "By listening to residents, we will work together to improve their living environment in the long term."
When the new plan will be finished, however, is not yet clear as the Council has not given itself a deadline to flesh out its second attempt at a circulation plan. "The intention is not to come with a ten-year plan. We will discuss it in the coming months, but whether it will be before the end of this year or before spring, we do not know yet. We have to take the time now to let peace return."
One positive consequence of all the chaos and protests surrounding the plan, according to Müller-Hübsch, is that nearly all locals now have an opinion on it. "Suddenly, everyone in the neighbourhood is talking about mobility, meaning we will now also get the chance to better explain the benefits of a circulation plan."
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Additionally, the plan also received positive feedback in some places, meaning that the entire plan will not be thrown in the bin. "It is not that black and white. We definitely want to avoid removing something that the neighbourhood was happy with, only to put it back two days later."
Still, most of the circulation plan in Cureghem will gradually be turned back in the coming days and weeks, following further consultations with the police on Thursday. "We definitely want to avoid even more traffic chaos and insecurity, which is why we need to make sure we take proper measures to smartly reverse the plan."