Ghent castle: Positive reaction for alternative renovation plan
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Ghent castle: Positive reaction for alternative renovation plan

© Benoit Brummer at Wikimedia

A local Ghent action group has received a positive response to its alternative to the official plan for the renovation of Ghent’s Castle of the Counts, known as the Gravensteen.

The castle dates back to the 12th century, and was the city residence of the Counts of Flanders until 1353. Since then it has served as a court, a prison, a mint and a cotton factory. It is now a museum and a city landmark.

More recently, the city took the decision to renovate some of the castle facilities, particularly with a view to improving accessibility. But the plans – including an external lift for visitors with mobility issues, and a sort of visitors’ pavilion also on the outside.

However the plan was not to the liking of the local group SOS Gravensteen, who complained that the city’s plan would ruin the exterior aspect of the castle.

To back up their objection, the group came up with its own renovation plan, under which the existing ticket desk will remain where it is, and a lift and two walkways will be constructed on the inside of the castle, providing access to those with mobility issues, but maintaining the exterior aspect of the castle.

Allowing more access to the castle ramparts, with their views of the city, was of crucial importance to the group.

“That is perfectly possible with an interior elevator,” Wouter Houtekamer of the action group told the VRT. “You don’t need an outside lift for that. We have now demonstrated this, and it has also been confirmed by two independent Flemish services. This alternative is feasible.”

© Visit Flanders

The plan, as he points out, has been welcomed by the Flemish government’s heritage service, as well as its accessibility agency Toegankelijk Vlaanderen.

“These decisions strengthen our conviction, so we look forward to the invitation from the city when they want to sit down with us. And if they don’t, we can still take further steps,” Houtekamer said.

“We think this is a strong plan, but we are prepared to develop it further and refine it where necessary. This way the city has a very full alternative to get started with.”