“Should they play us against each other?”

Will there be a high-voltage line across West Flanders soon? If it depends on the Flemish government, the chances are very high. She will soon be visiting the mayors involved, almost all CD&V members. But they are not going to admit a millimeter wide.

Ann Van den Broek

“I’m standing here on a meadow now while you call to me. When I look to the left, I see the transmission tower in Egem. Three hundred meters high. If I look to the right, there would soon be pylons eighty feet high, over a hundred feet wide. Explain to me now how it can be justified today? ”

Lieven Huys is mayor of Wingene for cd & v. He is one of the mayors of the ten West Flemish municipalities, which the high-voltage line Ventilus was soon to tower over. Everyone agrees that the wind energy produced in the North Sea must be brought ashore. But that this would not be possible via an underground connection, but would be achieved via overhead lines? A shame, Huys thinks, at a time when a concrete stop and gentle use of public space are the watchwords.

Officially, the Flemish government has not yet made a decision, it is stated in the stars that they will actually choose to build a new high-voltage line above ground from Zedelgem to Lendelede. But because the opposition from Huys, his co-mayors and civic action groups is so fierce, Prime Minister Jan Jambon (N-VA) announced on Friday that the final decision will not be made until September. The coming weeks will be used to consult with the affected municipal authorities.

A delegation consisting of Jan Jambon, Competent Minister Zuhal Demir (N-VA) and Deputy Prime Ministers Hilde Crevits (CD & V), Bart Somers (Open Vld) and Ben Weyts (N-VA) will listen to them in all sincerity, as it should, says Crevits. “Do not push anything from top to bottom. Anyone who thinks they can still do it these days is mistaken,” says the Christian Democrats’ top woman.

Sweetener

In practice, however, “consultation” is more often than not Wetstratees for: we are going to swallow the bitter medicine by adding some sweetener. “Flanking politics”, it is officially called, and already now the Flemish government is protecting it. She does not want to say what falls under that heading. Laying parts of the route underground or compensating local residents who want to relocate would be one of the options.

It is logical that Crevits is strongly committed to the consultation. She herself comes from Torhout, one of the municipalities involved. Eight out of ten Ventilus municipalities are managed by a CD&V member. And West Flanders is a very important orange stronghold. Ignoring the concerns of the locals can hurt all government parties, but the Christian Democrats the most.


Picture Wouter Van Vooren

“People are very worried, and so am I,” said Carine Dewaele, Christian Democrat mayor of Lendelede. A junction of high voltage power lines would be built in her municipality. An additional 2.5 hectares of open space would be taken over as a result. “It is claimed that there are no proven health effects. But they can not prove it in black and white. There are studies that indicate a statistical association with childhood leukemia. That’s a risk I do not want to take. There should be no doubt about health effects. No new PFOS scandal here, we just can ‘t allow anything like that anymore. ”

For Dewaele and her colleagues, therefore, it is very clear: That high-voltage line must be underground. “It’s possible abroad, why not here?” Huys asks. Bart Dochy, Mayor of Ledegem and Flemish MP for CD&V, sums it up as follows: “I will give you a note. They will never be able to convince people that above ground is a good choice if the underground possibility has never been fully investigated and substantiated rejected. ”

Separate

But the possibility of ordering a new study, on top of the report an intendant submitted in May, has already radically referred to the Flemish government’s trash can. What can the consultation with the local authorities still provide? It is also something that the mayors themselves wonder about.

“I do not have a good feeling that the Flemish government wants to talk to all of us individually,” Huys said. “Why do they not just put us together? What is their intention? Playing against each other? I can already see it happen that they say: look, here the one kilometer, no one lives there, it will work. And that they then go to the next municipality and say: The mayor of Wingen is already with us, what do you still bother? Sorry, but it will not happen. densely populated area such as Flanders. ”

Dochy, who is not an involved party but serves as a mouthpiece for his colleagues from the surrounding municipalities, hopes that the Flemish government has understood this correctly. “Either you take that consultation with the local authorities seriously, or you do not. If you hope the mayors will be impressed by the prime minister and his vices and will take a few pieces of silver, they will return from a barren journey. You do not buy support, you create it. ”

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