Namur has drawn up plans for an urban renewal scheme (PRU) that articulates two major projects in the station area. On the one hand, the development of the bus station on the slab that covers the railway station. On the other hand, the construction of a shopping center called Côté Verre in place of the current bus station — which has outlived its usefulness — and the adjacent Parc Léopold.
Until recently, the file followed its course without causing waves of protests, despite the planning of a chainsaw massacre: that of the majestic trees of great heritage value that adorn the place, one of the two green spaces of downtown, with Louise-Marie Park. Private developer Patric Huon (City-Mall), who has other shopping center projects in Wallonia in his portfolio, even ventured to speak of the existence of a broad consensus among the people of Namur. But things are changing. Last June, a collective of protesters was formed, bringing together an association for the defense of heritage, the local sections of Friends of the Earth and the Political Movement of Growth Objectors, and members of the Advisory Commission on Land Use and Mobility who were unhappy to see their objections ignored. They rather speak about denial of democracy and intend to provoke the public debate which they deplore the absence. With the October elections just around the corner, the start of the new school year looks like it will be a bumpy one for Ecolo, the initiator of the projects, and its MR-CDH partners in the outgoing majority, which adopted the PRU at the last meeting of the Municipal Council. The PS voted against for questions of form, without questioning the substance of the dossier.
Arnaud Gavroy, head of the Ecolo list and alderman for urban planning, justifies the Côté Verre project in these terms: « With its 20,000 m² and 1,000 parking spaces, it is a reasonable size compared to what is being done elsewhere; located close to the train station, and therefore easily accessible by public transport, it is far preferable to a mega-complex on the agricultural land of Bouge, and prevents the risk of such an implantation. « And to those who say they want neither because they believe that the commercial offer is more than sufficient on the territory of the municipality, Ecolo retorts through the voice of Georges Balon Perin, in charge of going to meet the recalcitrants who have started actions on the ground: « We can’t prevent a shopping mall from coming to Namur, the economy wants that.(1) For growth objectors, this argument perfectly illustrates the (im-)posture of Ecolo, reduced to the policy of the lesser evil by relaying the fatalistic discourse of the right on the nature of the economy.
In this context, some of the priorities of their electoral program sound funny: « We want Namur to become the greenest city in Wallonia, to share and secure its public spaces. Wanting to share public spaces by privatizing part of them? Wanting to green a city by liquidating hundred-year-old plane trees? Ecolo defends itself by outlining its greenbelt project — a planting scheme along the ring roads — and the great potential for public spaces in the downtown area. But in the eyes of the defenders of Leopold Park, these vague promises will not compensate for the destruction of a beautifully wooded square to build a temple of consumption, even if it is called Côté Verre.
Eddie Van Hassel
- Propos tenus le samedi 23 juin au Parc Léopold, jour où les indignés de Namur avaient organisé une manifestation-pique-nique.