New problems with renovation Binnenhof

Mobilization for the environment (MOB) wants the activities in and near the Binnenhof to be stopped. The action group for Nijmegen resident Johan Vollenbroek, who deals with legal cases, has submitted a “compulsion request” to the province of South Holland. According to MOB, the Statens Ejendomsmægler (RVB) has not applied for a nature permit for the project. Lawyer Valentijn Wösten from The Hague, who is associated with the MOB, says that it is ‘non-negotiable’ that is being enforced with the farmers, while the government in the administrative heart of the country itself is breaking the rules. “And if someone has to obey the law, that is the heart of democracy,” Wösten said.

MOB intervenes because the State Council decided three weeks ago that construction projects must also have a nitrogen permit. Previously, they fell under the ‘building exemption’, which the MOB considers one of the many ‘goat paths’ taken by the state to circumvent environmental regulations.

The highest administrative court agreed with MOB and determined that the dispensation is in breach of European nature protection rules.

Meijendel

The extra nitrogen released during the Binnenhof renovation can be deposited in the Meijendel Natura 2000 areas and the adjacent Berkheide. MOB itself states that it is not a matter of large quantities, but will nevertheless draw attention to it. Wösten: “We are sorry to have to do this, but apparently unorthodox means are needed to convince the politicians that it is high time. Action must be taken now.”

However, RVB does not expect any immediate problems. “The environmental permits issued so far are irrevocable, and they also date from the period when the dispensation was still valid,” says a spokesman. “But there are still new applications for permission. We are now investigating what consequences the State Council’s order has for this.” A spokeswoman for the province of South Holland confirms RVB’s reading. “The previously started work does not require a permit. But we are investigating.” The province has eight weeks to respond to the enforcement request. If granted, the Haaglanden Environment Agency must cease work at the Binnenhof.

Public entrance Binnenhof

Nitrogen emissions are just one of the issues facing the Central Government Property Agency in the Binnenhof dossier. Due to all kinds of administrative conflicts and arguments with architects, the renovation was already delayed. A relatively recent problem is the new public entrance added late to the plans, which should be recessed on the Hofplaats. The original design – an open, circular staircase leading downwards – appears to be impractical for security reasons, Minister Hugo de Jonge (CDA, Home Affairs) recently reported to the House of Representatives in a status report. ‘The sunken entrance will be covered and will have access at ground level, taking into account the urban development ambitions of The Hague municipality,’ says De Jonge. The comment about the ambitions is a reference to the municipality’s previous strong criticism of the entrance design.

The intervention at Hofplaats also has consequences for the popular Constitution Bench, the oblong monument that bears the text of Article 1. There is no longer room for that bench, De Jonge reports. It now checks whether the text can be placed elsewhere in the area. The planning of the entire entrance plan needs to be ‘recalibrated and optimized’, according to the report.

Turret

Another problem is the Ministry of General Affairs (AZ), including Prime Minister Rutte and his staff. Rutte is still in Torentje and AZ in the connected wing of the Binnenhof. The original plan – a move to a temporary office in Catshuis Gardens – met with so much opposition from the city council and local residents that it was withdrawn. AZ will now move to Bezuidenhoutseweg 73, once the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, but now a ‘national collection building’. The offices there are far from complete, partly because an ‘internal shift’ of services already resident there must first be completed.

Because of all this, it is unclear whether the announced delivery of the renewed Binnenhof at the end of 2026 is still feasible. RVB indicates that there is ‘tension [zit] on the scheduled end date’. In any case, the original budget of more than half a billion euros is no longer feasible. The counter for the estimates now stands at 734.1 million euros, and RVB expects further setbacks.

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