The Council of State has ruled against property development company Ghelamco in its appeal against the decision not to grant planning permission to build a new football stadium at the Heysel in Brussels.
The decision brings to an end the plan to construct a new home for the Red Devils, the national football team, on land currently occupied by Parking C at the Heysel complex.
Originally, the plan had been to have the new stadium ready for the European championships this year, which were to be co-hosted by Belgium and the Netherlands. The project was backed by the city of Brussels, which owns the land in question, though it is within the territory of the Flemish municipality of Grimbergen.
The project was beset with problems from the start. The main ones were the procedures to obtain the approval of the various authorities concerned.
On top of that was the plan to have a stadium that could only be used for football, which would mean that once the existing King Baudouin stadium was demolished, athletics competitions like the Ivo Van Damme Memorial would no longer have a home.
Then there was the on-again off-again relationship with Anderlecht football club, which would have occupied the new stadium when the Red Devils were not playing at home. But talks broke down over finances, and Anderlecht pulled out.
The last straw came when the Flemish government of Geert Bourgeois decided in 2018 not to grant an environmental permit to Ghelamco, based on the surface area of the project, and the mobility problems the stadium would bring.
Ghelamco appealed to the Flemish government’s Council for Permit Disputes, which turned down the appeal, arguing that the Flemish government’s decision was “not manifestly unreasonable”.
Finally in October last year, Ghelamco turned to the court of last appeal, the Council of State, whose job is to rule on any dispute involving the various levels of government, from federal to municipal.
The Council of State was ruling only on the legality of the decision by the permit disputes tribunal, and not on the case for or against the stadium. In a last-ditch effort to save the project, Ghelamco argued that the ruling was in breach of several articles of the Flemish government’s codex on urban planning, while its motivation was contradictory.