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Monuments authority against proposed design for Schuman roundabout

21:25 09/05/2023

The Royal Commission for Monuments and Sites (CRMS) has come out against proposed changes to the Schuman roundabout in Brussels.

The CRMS issued an unfavourable opinion in regards to the installation of a green roof over the site, RTBF reports.

According to the commission, the steel canopy of mirrors will break the perspective towards Cinquantenaire Park from the Avenue de Tervuren and the Rue de la Loi, ruining the view.

The works to redevelop the square are primarily aimed at increasing safety and improving traffic flow, but the green roof and its large mirrors are intended to help beautify the roundabout.

The application for planning permission for the Schuman roundabout’s renovation is currently under public enquiry until 11 May, but CRMS said the documents presented in the application “do not allow for a valid assessment of the clutter and impact of the canopy on the urban landscape”.

“In the absence of a complete study of the perspectives so that it can assess the visual impact of the developments on the urban landscape, in particular that of the circular awning on the monumental perspective of the Cinquantenaire arcades, the CRMS reiterates its unfavourable opinion on the installation of the awning in the centre of the Schuman roundabout,” the authority said, reiterating that it had already given a negative opinion on the first permit application at the end of 2021.

“The commission wishes to avoid irreversible alteration of the various perspectives towards Cinquantenaire, in particular the one along the Little Ring.”

CRMS wants to avoid another “error of appreciation” in the area such as the construction of the tower The One, which was inaugurated in 2019 at Rue de la Loi 109 and breaks the perspective from Avenue de Tervuren.

In its opinion, the commission asked that “symmetrical alignments be favoured to help recreate a link with the Cinquantenaire park. It is imperative that the intersection of Rue de la Loi with Avenue de la Joyeuse Entrée be given a coherent landscape treatment in view of the proximity of the listed site.”

It also offered criticism for the new redevelopments planned for Avenue de la Joyeuse Entrée, recommending “greater continuity of pavement colours (and not resorting to ochre asphalt) in order to preserve the continuity and coherence of the urban landscape in the direct vicinity of Cinquantenaire park.”

The commission's opinion is not binding but has support from some, including Jean-Pierre Brouhon of the Jean Monnet shopkeepers' association. That association, along with other residents' associations, lodged an appeal with the Council of State against the first planning permission.

“We are preparing to relaunch the same procedure with the Council of State when the second permit is granted,” Jean-Pierre Brouhon told RTBF.

"As far as the canopy is concerned, we think it is completely unnecessary. It’s money wasted. This awning will not bring anything to the neighbourhood insofar as it is presented as being a kind of area that will allow people to gather.

"In reality, this canopy will be an opportunity for the authorities to stop allowing gatherings and demonstrations of a protest nature on the roundabout."

Brouhon said the aim should be to make the area neutral.

“For us [shopkeepers], the presence of people allows us to run our businesses in a context of the energy crisis. The district has been emptied with the move to remote working and is suffering. These demonstrations, which are not all vindictive, are therefore an opportunity for us to do business.”

While conceding that the Schuman roundabout “is not beautiful”, Brouhon said that “this does not mean that we have to spend so much money on it. It’s not reasonable, and the ban on cars and lorries is a real stab in the back for the shopkeepers too.”

Written by Helen Lyons