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8,000 sign petition against outdoor swimming in Anderlecht’s Neerpede

21:32 07/03/2024

A petition against the construction of a swimming pond in the Neerpede park in Anderlecht has gathered almost 8,000 signatures so far, with those opposed claiming that it would damage the natural character of the area.

The petition was organised by citizens’ movement Sauvegardons Neerpede, Bruzz reports, which collected 7,924 signatures against the project.

The plan they oppose would transform a section of the Neerpede pond in Anderlecht into a natural swimming pond with a surface area of 5,000m², addressing a lack of outdoor swimming spots in the Belgian capital that residents have long been fighting for.

“The project will significantly change the appearance of the pond because changing rooms, a large pavilion and other infrastructure will have to be built,” said Yannick Laurent of Sauvegardons Neerpede.

The design of the natural swimming pond envisages a capacity of 225 swimmers per half-hour, with turnstiles at the entrance ensuring capacity is not exceeded. In the pond itself, lanes would be constructed.

“That looks more like sports swimming than recreational swimming,” said Laurent, adding that he feared it would be “impossible” to count and monitor every visitor and that vehicular traffic would increase.

“The Neerpede is at the far end of Anderlecht and is poorly accessible by public transport. People will therefore come en masse by car.”

But while Brussels’ environment minister Alain Maron (Ecolo) took no position on the petition, a spokesperson stressed that visitors would only be allowed to swim in the pond a few weeks a year, weather permitting.

“Additionally, we’re in talks with the municipality of Anderlecht about the management of the Neerpede pond,” the spokesperson said.

“Everything must be done in the best possible conditions, as is always the case in parks managed by Brussels Environnement. We will initially limit the number of visitors to 120 people per hour and control those figures through a system of prior registration.”

Maron defended the project as an essential upgrade for the region's “green lung”: “The project is part of a broader plan to revitalise Neerpede park. The emphasis is on nature conservation and biodiversity, for example by restoring the ponds and expanding the reed beds.”

Petition notwithstanding, the opening of the swimming pond is scheduled for 2026.

Written by Helen Lyons