Flemish Minister for the Environment Zuhal Demir has decided not to issue an environmental permit for deforestation and the construction of a depot and training area for De Lijn in Wondelgemse Meersen in Ghent. “The application file is not legally in order and would immediately die on appeal,” says the N-VA minister. For example, according to her, no legally conclusive forest compensation proposal has been included.
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Since 2002, the transport company De Lijn has focused its plans on a wooded area called the ‘Wondelgemse Meersen’: an area enclosed between the companies along the Nieuwevaart and the Wiedauwkaai. De Lijn wants to build a new depot there as well as a new training ground. De Lijn already obtained permits for the investment in 2006 and 2017, but these have since expired. A new application was submitted, whereby the remaining forest of more than 4.5 hectares would also disappear.
De Lijn’s plans clashed with protests from local residents and nature associations. 360 objections were lodged against the project, pointing out the important natural values of the Meersen.
Minister Demir now refuses to issue an environmental permit. According to her, the application file is not legally in order. “It would immediately die on appeal,” says the minister. For example, no legally sound forest compensation proposal has been included, which is mandatory according to the applicable regulations.
De Lijn says it has “taken note” of the decision. “The refusal is unexpected because we thought we met the conditions. We are now going to thoroughly study the basis for this decision,” the transport company said in a statement.