Work can now continue on the construction of a new prison in Haren in the north of Brussels, after the Council of State yesterday rejected the last appeals against the plans.
The case was brought by activist groups against the urban planning and environmental permits granted by the Brussels region for the prison. Federal justice minister Koen Geens announced the court’s ruling on Twitter.
The permits were delivered in 2016 and 2017, but works were held up by legal procedures. Preparation of the site (photo) started last summer, with construction of the foundations beginning earlier this year.
The so-called mega-prison will provide space for 1,190 prisoners, and be ready by 2022. It is expected to replace the accommodation currently provided by the city prisons of Forest and St-Gilles, as well as the women’s prison of Berkendael, all of which are old and run-down, and fail to meet the standards expected of a modern prison.
Some objectors had criticised the new prison as an alternative for the existing facilities, arguing that the site would increase the isolation of prisoners, and impose more of a burden on visiting family members by making them travel far outside of the city centre. As well as visitors, the new prison would cause an increase in travel for prisoners themselves, for example for court appearances, as well as for legal representatives and other professionals.
The Council of State in its ruling judged that guarantees for the protection of nature in the area were sufficiently provided in the permit, while mobility would be only slightly affected by the arrival of the new prison. Alternative sites, it said, had been investigated and rejected.
The new prison will be built as a public-private enterprise, which will cost the state some 40 million euros a year for the next 25 years, according to Laurent Vrijdags, director of the government’s buildings agency.