High voltage in Bruges, where ministers and 25 mayors sit together about Ventilus and citizens’ platforms take action | Ventilus

BrugesA top meeting about Ventilus – the planned 82 kilometer high-voltage line in West Flanders – is currently taking place at the official residence of the governor in Bruges. The 25 involved West Flemish mayors look the Flemish ministers in the eye. The citizen platforms already invited the mayors involved to a presentation last week and are planning a peaceful action today.

The Ventilus project — a new 82-kilometer high-voltage line in West Flanders — will strengthen the capacity of our electricity grid. This helps to avoid blackouts, makes the grid future-proof and green electricity produced by wind farms in the North Sea can be brought ashore. It is not yet certain whether the route will be constructed above ground or underground. Some fear the potential health risks associated with an overhead power line, leading to local protests.

Read more about the project in this article. You will find all the news about Ventilus in our file.

Flemish Prime Minister Jambon, Environment Minister Zuhal Demir (both N-VA) and Deputy Prime Ministers Hilde Crevits (CD&V), Bart Somers (Open Vld) and Ben Weyts (N-VA) will come to Bruges on Friday to talk with the mayors. In preparation for this, the citizen platforms invited the mayors involved last Friday to attend a presentation by researcher Filip Vanaeken. The common thread throughout that presentation was the choice between an above-ground restart or a restart with an underground line running on direct current. Citizens’ platforms fear health risks from an overhead line and have been arguing for the latter option for three years now. However, according to grid operator Elia, many technical limitations stand in the way of this option. It would be less stable, more expensive and last (much) longer.

Action groups take action against the Ventilus project at the governor’s house in Bruges © BHT

“It is possible, but it has never been seriously investigated,” according to the citizen platforms. “Opting for alternating current above ground because of the urgency of the project is not an option. Legal proceedings will delay the project to such an extent that it will ultimately take less time to install Ventilus underground on direct current. In addition, the line will be so heavily loaded that the area where the limit value for magnetic radiation is exceeded will not be 1,200 but 1,700 hectares in size. That makes the authorization of an overhead overhead line on alternating current impossible.”

protest against Ventilus project in Bruges where the mayors meet with the minister to discuss the matter © Benny Proot
protest against Ventilus project in Bruges where the mayors meet with the minister to discuss the matter
protest against Ventilus project in Bruges where the mayors meet with the minister to discuss the matter © Benny Proot

Alternative?

Minister Zuhal Demir (N-VA) previously indicated that there was a preference for an overhead line, certainly in light of the energy crisis, but the citizen platforms are not giving up hope. In order to strengthen the demand for research into the underground alternative to direct current, the citizen platforms gathered at the governor’s official residence on Friday 2 September around 12.30 pm for a peaceful action. Vlaams Belang, which had previously sided with the citizen platforms, also announced that it would be present.

Flemish Minister for the Environment Zuhal Demir (N-VA) holds top consultations about Ventilus in Bruges today.
Flemish Minister for the Environment Zuhal Demir (N-VA) holds top consultations about Ventilus in Bruges today. © BHT

“Till the end”

Zuhal Demir spoke clearly before the meeting: “Today no decision will be made. We will mainly listen to the mayors. The intendant has done his job well and accurately and we are now entering into a dialogue about this with the mayors involved. However, the intention is to make the final decision within a few weeks.” The mayors seem to be especially in favor of an underground power line. “We are really going to fight for this, until the end if necessary,” says Frank Casteleyn (CD&V), mayor of Jabbeke. Bruges mayor Dirk De fauw (CD&V) is more nuanced: “The preference is for underground, but I think there are several alternatives. not yet sufficiently researched.”

protest against Ventilus project in Bruges where the mayors meet with the minister to discuss the matter
protest against Ventilus project in Bruges where the mayors meet with the minister to discuss the matter © Benny Proot
protest against Ventilus project in Bruges where the mayors meet with the minister to discuss the matter
protest against Ventilus project in Bruges where the mayors meet with the minister to discuss the matter © Benny Proot

Legal action

The action of the citizen platforms is proceeding calmly. Vlaams Belang is also participating in the campaign. A suit activist is also involved. “The high-voltage line could come above my house,” says Bart Vergote from Zedelgem. “I have the impression that it is mainly a matter of cost. Underground is safer and healthier. We are all advocating for that.” According to Ignace Vandewalle, about 80 companies in West Flanders may also be victims of an overhead line. “We are concerned about the safety of our employees, but also about the labor shortage. Soon no one will want to work for these companies, because their health is endangered. If the choice is not made underground, we will take legal action.”

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Liveable E403 and Revolth join forces. Both groups argue for an underground solution for Ventilus and the Boucle De Hainaut
Liveable E403 and Revolth join forces. Both groups argue for an underground solution for Ventilus and the Boucle De Hainaut © RV

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Tags: High voltage Bruges ministers mayors sit Ventilus citizens platforms action Ventilus

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