Geraardsbergen. For several months, the Buizemontstraat between the Markt and the Molenstraat has been closed due to the demolition of a house. Anyone who thoroughly reads the file will be amazed by the winding course of the decision-making process and the contradictory decisions. There is a real chance that the file will end up on the long track for a long time. ‘Hopefully common sense will get the upper hand soon so that we no longer have to talk about ‘the Ukraine of Geraardsbergen’, says Mr Timothy Hubert. We publish the history of the file. We leave the question of whether there is sound governance to the reader.
For several months, the Buizemontstraat between the Markt and the Molenstraat has been closed due to the demolition of a house. Initially, the intention was to realize a joint project (PS International NV & HMI BV) of 10 apartments on Markt 38-39-40-41. The condition of the urban planning department to realize this project was the provision of underground parking garages. As a result, this project was halted and the owner of Markt 38 decided to submit a separate construction file. The environmental permit for Market No. 38 was granted in January 2022.
Several questions were already asked about this file during the city council, but anyone who reads the story of the owner of Markt 38 is amazed by the winding course of the decision-making process and contradictory decisions. Mr Hubert tried to get the file back on track by proposing a compromise, but that fell on deaf ears.
According to Mr. Hubert, the city of Geraardsbergen has not brought the parties involved closer together. On the contrary. He contacted mayor De Padt twice to reach an agreement. Without result. There is a real chance that the entire file will end up on the long haul, while there is an acute safety problem in the adjacent building, Markt 39. You can read the history of the file below.
The history of the file
On the Markt no., 38, 39, 40 and 41, a project was discussed on November 20, 2019 to realize 10 apartments. ‘The urban planning department imposes an obligation to provide underground garages. When it is asked whether the heritage service will visit during the works, the response is affirmative and the owners of the plots decide not to continue this project, as the project threatens to come to a standstill for years for possible excavations’, says Mr Hubert. The manager makes an application through his company to realize a project on Markt38. The environmental permit will be granted on January 24, 2022.
The neighbor will be informed by registered letter that the works will start at the end of April 2022. The contractor – who is carrying out the demolition work – establishes that there is a beam in the middle of the house on Markt 38 that provides support for the house on Markt 39. According to the contractor, there is a chance that with further demolition the communal wall will collapse and that the asbestos from the roof of Markt 39 will come down with it. Mr. Hubert immediately contacts the competent city services, after which a meeting is scheduled on site with the mayor, the engineer appointed by the city services, the fire chief, the Urban Planning Department, and Mr. Hubert’s engineer.
During this consultation, it is decided to impose a demolition obligation. ‘Given the history of the file, we were aware that Mr P. Sienaert also wishes to abort. However, Mr. Sienaert is on leave and cannot be contacted immediately,” said Mr. Hubert. In the evening he was surprised to read the decisions of the mayor of April 22, 2022. It states that to the owner of market 39 is imposed to ‘stabilize the house, tear down the common wall and then rebuild it’. ‘This while the common wall is completely intact compared to the situation before the start of the demolition works,’ says Mr Hubert.
The owner of house no. 39 does not leave it at that and lodges a complaint with the Justice of the Peace in which compensation is demanded vis-à-vis Mr Hubert’s company. A consultation will follow between the Urban Planning Department, Mr Sienaert and the architect. The safety coordinator and engineering firm appointed by Mr. Hubert propose to demolish the Markt 39 house and to prop up the house on Markt 40. According to the city department concerned, the house on Markt 39 is unstable and there is an acute danger to safety and public health. ‘Market 39 must be demolished and Markt 40 must be propped up, until a building application is submitted for Markt 39-40-41. This is to guarantee safety.’ According to Mr. Hubert, the city of Geraardsbergen is claiming €100 per day for the confiscation of the public domain.
‘Illegal and practically unfeasible’
Remarkably, the city council changed its shoulder on May 25. The mayor’s decrees state that the owner and client of the property Markt no. 38 – the house of his neighbor – Markt no. 39 – must support the inside of Markt 39. According to Mr Hubert this is ‘Illegal and impracticable and would even amount to burglary’. ‘Besides, this is of no use. It is raining inside the building and the market value of Markt 39 can be estimated at land value. Why prop up a building that everyone wants to tear down?’ According to the city services, the common wall must be demolished and re-bricked to give the existing house no. 39 sufficient support again.
According to de Hubert, the owners of Markt 39-40-41 do have the intention to demolish the Market No. 39 building and to build a new project at No. 39-40-41. In the meantime, de Hubert has made several attempts to reach an agreement with Mr. Sienaert and the city services. For example, he proposed to finance part of the shoring works of Markt 40 and he submitted an offer for a joint demolition of Markt 38 and 39 to all parties, but to date he has not received any positive response.
On July 13, the Justice of the Peace decides that no damage has been done to the neighbor’s property.
Ukraine on the Dender instead of a thriving commercial center
According to Mr. Hubert, the city of Geraardsbergen did not bring the parties involved closer together, but due to the course of events they were forced to hire a lawyer. He points out also note that due to this unfortunate state of affairs, the restart of the works has been postponed: ‘Only when there is agreement with the 3 parties (city, neighbor and myself) regarding the possible demolition market 39 can I contact the contractor structural works.’
As a result of the decisions taken, Mr Hubert can no longer engage the demolition contractor as the structural contractor for an indefinite period: ‘There are currently waiting times of 6 months to 2 years to get contractors on site.’ According to the city services, there is currently an acute safety risk as a result of which the public road cannot be opened. Then one should extend this reasoning and conclude that a demolition obligation is imposed (because of a danger to public health – asbestos on Market No. 39) for Market No. 39 and the Market 40 building must be supported until a building application is submitted. submitted for Markt 39-40-41 and a simultaneous safe demolition of the buildings is made possible.
‘The faster the planned works on Markt 38-39-40 and 41 can be carried out, the more beautiful the center of our city will look. In addition, after the planned works, additional commercial premises will be available on the ground floors, which would benefit employment and the economy in our city center. It is therefore incomprehensible that the city council attaches more importance to the “protected” facade of Markt 40 than to a beautiful and thriving city center. Hopefully common sense will soon gain the upper hand so that there is no longer a need to talk about ‘the Ukraine of Geraardsbergen’ and the surrounding traders will not be further hindered by the closure of the public road by the city council’, concludes Mr. Hubert.