An artificial island planned by the Flemish regional government as a means of protection of the coast would mean the end of Knokke-Heist as a beach resort, according to the town’s mayor, Baron Leopold Lippens. “This decision is disgusting and would ruin our coast,” he went on.
The proposal, part of a plan for the coastline for the period 2020-2026, would involve the construction of a long, thin, artificial island in front of the coast of Knokke and Heist. The aim is to stop coastal erosion, and protect against the damage from storms. But Lippens said the plan would turn the Knokke coast into a “soulless and dead canal-zone”.
Baron Lippens, now in his late seventies, is not himself without sin; as the owner of a richly successful construction company, he is partly responsible for turning Knokke into a veritable Atlantic Wall of high-rise buildings facing the sea. More recently, his company and partners spent a fortune trying to convince the local authority of Cadzand – just across the Zwin estuary from Knokke in the Dutch province of Zeeland – to repeal its ban on buildings higher than six storeys, so that the Zeeland coastline might be wrecked as had been achieved in Knokke.
Lippens also attacked his fellow mayors Renaat Landuyt of Bruges and Joachim Koens of Damme, whom he accused of supporting the island to drive shipping traffic to Zeebrugge and Damme at the expense of Knokke.
Flemish tourism minister Ben Weyts defended the proposal. “This test island is planned to avoid the coast becoming literally destroyed,” he said. “The possible effects described by Lippens, such as the loss of waves, will not be produced by the installation of a limited test island off the coast of Knokke. The plan is to learn from this experiment, and to help avoid any negative effects in the future. Mayor Lippens knows that.”