Opponents of the scheme employ the same arguments as those who oppose the planned Uplace development in Machelen, not far from Heizel: a huge shopping centre will increase congestion on roads around Brussels and take trade away from more commercial areas in city centres.
Uplace has been opposed on these grounds by 16 towns from Vilvoorde to Leuven and as far as Tienen. Unizo, the organisation that represents the selfemployed, has promised to file a legal appeal if the Uplace project is allowed to go ahead by Joke Schauvliege, the Flemish environment minister.
NEO can expect to meet with the same sort of opposition from businesses and their representatives, but the project has the full backing of Brussels mayor Freddy Thielemans’ socialists, as well as the support of French-speaking green party Ecolo. Last week the council announced it was inviting tenders for two parts of the package: residential and shopping spaces, and a conference centre for 5,000 visitors plus a 250-room hotel.
This week, the public procedure started for the granting of planning and environmental permits. The process is expected to take several months.