The farmers’ protest in Torhout threatens to cause traffic chaos in the city today. The R34 is completely closed between the roundabouts of two major access roads to the city. More than 200 tractors are on the street. There is a risk of traffic disruption, especially this afternoon. “Then 6,000 students who attend school in the city center will have to leave. I fear a lot of inconvenience,” says Mayor Kristof Audenaert (Cd&V). Clear agreements were made with the farmers: the intersection of Aartrijkestraat is free for the emergency medical services of the nearby hospital and the fire brigade nearby.
Earlier this week there were already some smaller protests in Torhout. For example, the roundabout on Bruggestraat on the R34 was occupied for a while yesterday. Today it concerns a much larger action and there is a risk of a lot of traffic problems in the city. From 9.30 am, columns with dozens of tractors drove from the surrounding municipalities to Torhout. (read more below the video)
Our journalist climbed into a tractor near ‘t Engels Hof in Torhout. — © Arne Franck
An impressive parade of more than 200 tractors gathered on the R34, which is the road coming from the E403 highway around the city. The roundabout on Bruggestraat is occupied, which is the roundabout coming from the E403, to drive further into Torhout or towards Zedelgem. The roundabout on Oostendestraat is also occupied, from there you can normally enter the city or drive to Gistel or Ostend. The traffic disruption caused by the blockages was not too bad in the morning, but a lot of disruption is expected, especially in the afternoon. (read more below the photos)
Disruption for 6,000 students
“We don’t know exactly how everything will go,” says Mayor Kristof Audenaert (Cd&V). “We tried to consult as best as possible. The police will divert heavy traffic from the E403 so that they do not have to enter the R34. A parking ban has been introduced in some surrounding lanes of the R34, such as Pottebezemstraat, so that detouring traffic can pass through more smoothly. But in any case we expect heavy traffic disruption. This will certainly be the case with the exodus from schools. Then 6,000 students would have to leave school in the city center.” Then a traffic jam threatens. “We expect major traffic disruptions, especially at the end of school,” the Sint-Rembert schools report. “We will consult with the security forces and farmers to ensure that school traffic and school buses pass through as smoothly as possible. But anyone who goes to pick up their children should take the blockages into account. We therefore asked to come by bike or train as much as possible.” (read more below the photo)
Most fertile soil
“We are here today for three reasons,” says Dieter Pattyn of the National Guild of Torhout. “Firstly, we want a strong nitrogen policy in which there is no longer any doubt and our future is assured. We also request a feasible manure action plan that does not involve calendar farming. We ask that feasible agriculture takes soil conditions into account. Finally, we demand economically viable agriculture. We are sitting here on the most fertile ground in this world. Let us not give up on this.” (read more below the photo)
Hospital always accessible
Near the blockade at the roundabout in Oostendestraat are the AZ Delta Hospital Sint-Rembert campus and the Torhout fire station. “Agreements were also made there,” continues Mayor Kristof Audenaert. “The emergency services must always be able to get through the blockages. We will certainly see to that. Another very important delivery was planned for the hospital on Friday. This was carried out before the blockade was set up.”
In concrete terms, the intersection of Aartrijkestraat, which is located in the middle of the R34, is not occupied. Emergency services always have priority at the intersection, but it is also free for all traffic. So anyone who needs to go to the hospital can always do so. “We will ensure that too,” concludes Dieter Pattyn.