The business park plan for the area between E19 and R6 has been around for decades. “My friend’s grandfather built our house in the 1960s. A few years later, there was already talk of having to move. My friend bought the house in 2008 and shortly thereafter a letter arrived in the mailbox about expropriation,” says Inge van Gorb. According to the city, the project developer owns four hectares of 10.5 hectares in Mechelen-Noord III.
A year ago, the construction of the adjacent Malinas Shopping Park sparked protests against cutting the area. Nils Ewens, current curator of the Riverinland Nature Reserve, organized an online petition that resulted in thousands of signatures. He called it “a hidden pearl with a swamp and a forest.”
The city has contracted with a consulting firm to determine if the business park is the most suitable destination. “In line with the ambitions of the new space policy plan, we have started a study to keep the space as open as possible, but at the same time we also want to respect the building rights of the respective owners,” says Greet Geypen (Vld-Groen-m+), a local council member for spatial planning.
In June, the city tested the preferred scenario for the first time with those involved: site residents, developer, and Natuurpunt, among others. Their findings were incorporated into a master plan that eventually forms the basis for the new Spatial Implementation Plan (RUP). The goal is to protect a large part of the green space, including the wetland part with swamps and reeds.
“We are in the process of reaching an agreement to significantly limit development. The total area will be about 16,500 square meters. Our ambition is to develop this SME district as a sustainable business park in the future,” says Geypen. Access is via the Malinas and the city wants to focus on maintaining the existing canal system, green roofs, rainwater reuse and facilities for temporary storage and infiltration.
Finally, the 10 families living in the Mechelen North 3 area got legal certainty. The houses that are there are regulated. “They will be repurposed as residential areas,” says Alderman Jeppen. Inge van Gurb has many questions. “We like to live here, but the problem is we don’t know what’s coming our way. All SMEs are well and good, but do trucks come and go here all day? Is it possible, is it possible? It’s a bit of a dilemma. We are both in the middle. Forties and homes aren’t cheap. Just start over.”
Neighbor Elise de Neve and her family have lived there for four years. “We definitely don’t want to leave here. It was a relief when we heard in June that we could stay. For the SME area, it remains to be seen what it will bring,” she says. Locals who have lived there longer are more suspicious. “Look first, then believe. Much has already been said. It should be on paper first.”