On May 30, 2012, the Flemish Environment Minister, Joke Schauvliege, announced her decision to grant the Uplace Machelen redevelopment project its environmental permit. This environmental permit is the culmination of over five years spent securing planning consents for Uplace. Uplace is looking forward with great enthusiasm and confidence to the realization of the project.
The Uplace project is an innovative concept to breathe new life into the abandoned and contaminated site next to the former Renault factory, with lifestyle shops, offices, a theatre, hotel, cinema and dining outlets set in a contemporary, green environment. Uplace has been working with the Flemish government since 2007, including the securing of a brownfield site agreement, in order to realize this project.
In September 2010, the municipality of Machelen issued the first permit, the authorization of commercial establishments, after a positive opinion by the National Social Economic Committee for Distribution. In October 2011, the Flemish government issued the planning permission for the project.
In the same year, the Flemish government approved the Regional Spatial Implementation Plan, enabling the redevelopment of the canal zone in Machelen. With the granting of the environmental permit in 2012, the project now has all necessary planning consents. After a planning permission process of five years, the Uplace project is now fully authorized.
Important precedent for all entrepreneurs
The Uplace case is encouraging for all entrepreneurs who wish to undertake major projects in Flanders. The Flemish Government has shown that it is a reliable partner that will take bold and firm decisions, provided that all regulations are rigorously followed. Flanders is sending a strong message that it continues to be a legally secure region in which to invest.
Minister Schauvliege had limited jurisdiction in this case, working within the outlines of the administrative review body responsible for the environmental permit. She has followed all applicable rules therein, despite opponents to the project.
Procedures closely followed
A total of 14, almost exclusively positive opinions from different government agencies were given prior to this environmental permit decision. The decision by the Environment Minister, who had to take action on the application, is therefore a natural conclusion to this process.
There were seven participation opportunities organized, dozens of authorities involved and positive opinions of this project expressed by, among others, the local council and two Flemish governments including CD&V, sp.a, Open Vld and N-VA. For each of the major concerns, such as mobility and retail, an extensive remedy plan was put in place with specific timing, budgeting and commitments. Uplace shouldered its responsibilities and invested in this accessibility, among other things. Uplace continues, as always, to engage in constructive dialogue with all stakeholders.
We continue to believe in the strength of our innovative project for the region: a project that generates 3,000 jobs - on top of those created by the construction phase - that cleans up contaminated land and expands consumer choices. These are strong assets in these economically troubled times.
Next steps in the realization
Uplace is now starting work on the technical plans, site preparation, project financing and commercialization for Uplace Machelen. The intention is to start work on the site in the course of 2013 so that the project is complete and open to the public in 2016.