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Coastal mayors angry over exit strategy rules

The seafront at Ostend. © Westtoer

The mayors of towns at the coast are in open revolt, after the national security council this week ignored their pleas and postponed permission for the owners of second homes at the coast until June 8.

Prior to the meeting, which would prepare the conditions for the first tentative opening up of the confinement, the mayors of 18 coastal municipalities put in a plea for second home owners to be allowed to come to the coast from May 18.

That plea fell on deaf ears, and now the mayors have decided to go it alone.

I’m sticking to my guns,” said Ostend mayor and former Flemish minister Bart Tommelein (Open VLD). “They are welcome here from May 18. It’s quite simply untenable to make people wait until June before they can even come and look at their own property at the coast.”

The logic of the council’s decisions, in this case as in others, remains unclear, he said.

“I can’t help it. How on Earth am I supposed to check? You can surf in the sea again, you can come for a walk on the beach, you can visit family, but the owner of an apartment in Ostend should not come and see if everything is in order in his flat on the seafront? He may not come to take the meter readings, or get everything ready to rent again in the long term? That’s just not feasible. I cannot and will not stop owners.”

His colleague, Daphné Dumery of Blankenberge (N-VA) will also be turning a blind eye.

We are now under strict rules and yet still we see second home owners slip through the net. As soon as people can visit each other freely, it will be impossible to pick out those who have property here,” she said. Dumery plans to allow the food stalls at the market to ease the pressure of additional residents on the supermarkets.

Mayor of Bredene, Steve Vandenberghe (sp.a), expressed doubt that police can enforce the rule.

The more the rules are relaxed, the more we have to rely on people’s common sense. I am not going to ask my services to do the impossible. Our police services will focus more on controlling social distancing and gatherings.”

The strongest reaction came from rebel former MP Jean-Marie Dedecker, now mayor of Middelkerke.

This is a scandal, an assault on the right to property,” he said. “It is nothing short of theft of the livelihood of small businesses. The coastal mayors need to call for civil disobedience. There’s room here for everyone. Let people come.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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