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Plans for divisive outdoor swimming pond in Brussels get environmental green light

09:10 17/04/2024

Plans to convert one of the ponds in Brussels’ Neerpede park into a recreational swimming spot have received the environmental green light with the awarding of a permit.

The urban planning permit was already granted, Bruzz reports, but the recent acquisition of an environmental permit means the swimming pond is likely to come to fruition after all, despite criticism and fierce resistance from local residents.

The bathing pond would become the first of its kind in Brussels since the closure of open-air swimming pools in the last century and the closure of the Solarium outdoor pool in Evere in the 1970s.

But while outdoor swimming spots are lacking in Brussels, residents worry that plans to turn the 400-hectare area into a nature and recreation park will result in crowds, traffic and environmental damage.

The operational plan for Neerpede was drawn up in 2020 by Brussels Environnement and the municipality of Anderlecht, but approval hinged on clarifications.

Those were mainly needed on the conditions for monitoring new swimming activities and their integration into the park in terms of biodiversity, mobility, cleanliness and safety.

The city’s environmental authorities ultimately decided that a maximum of 225 bathers at a time will be able to enter the water from May to September.

This will be monitored by a supervisory team of eight to 13 people, for which Brussels Environment will appoint another private service provider. The bathing area will be strictly enclosed to control access via a reception pavilion.

The planning permission also includes the redesign of traffic routes, the construction of several buildings around the future swimming pond and authorisation to cut down certain trees and replant them elsewhere.

With the approval of the environmental permit, the works can now start by 2025 with the goal of opening to the public in summer 2026.

That timing is contingent on other hurdles, including an announced appeal against the plans from the Anderlecht city council and a petition against the project from a group of local residents.

Written by Helen Lyons