The citizen’s movement Pas Question! has compiled a dossier of several thousand pages on the process leading up to the Plan Wathelet’s adoption. We think that the time is right to inform the people of Brussels about the major dysfunctions which have marred this process in minister Wathelet’s office:
1. No population density study was conducted before the plan’s implementation. 2. Substantial changes to the original 2008-2010 plans were never submitted to the Conseil des Ministres (the Federal Government’s cabinet of ministers). 3. The flight paths were altered several times in accordance with a philosophy of self-interest.
4. There was zero consultation with the Brussels Region.
1. No population density study before the plan’s implementation
The Federal Government ministerial cabinet agreements of 2008-2010 stipulated that “the concentration of flights over densely populated areas shall be restricted as far as possible”. Population density below the flight paths was therefore definitely a key criterion of the 2008-2010 agreements.
However, the Secretary of State for mobility has officially acknowledged that no advance study of the population densities below the flight paths was carried out before implementing the new routes.
How can the Secretary of State claim to have correctly applied the 2008-2010 agreements when the crucial advance studies were not even carried out?
2. Substantial changes made to the original plans of 2008-2010 were never submitted to the Conseil des Ministres.
The 2008-2010 Federal Government ministerial agreements stipulated different left-turn altitudes: 1 700 feet for the ‘short turn’, and 2 200 feet for the new, longer turn.
On several occasions between 2010 and 2012, however, Belgium’s air-traffic control agency, Belgocontrol, advised that both left-turns should be made at a height of 1 700 feet on safety grounds. This recommendation has had two major repercussions in the case of the new, longer turn:
- Aircraft now turn at a lower altitude than initially planned over Brussels;
- The route followed by the turn itself has been redefined.
These two points should have received Conseil des Ministres approval; however, they were only submitted to, and validated by, the inter-cabinet (inter-ministerial working group) in June 2012 and never reached the Conseil des Ministres.
How can the Secretary of State claim that this plan is the one adopted by entire government when key changes to the agreements were not even validated by the Conseil des Ministres?
3. Flight paths altered several times in accordance with a philosophy of self-interest
In the case of the long left-turn, which now takes aircraft the furthest into the centre of Brussels and is affecting the biggest number of Brussels residents, it should be remembered that several other routes had been considered by Wathelet’s office before this solution was hatched.
In chronological order:
(1) The starting point: the “traditional” left-turn, used prior to February 2014, (see turn 1, in purple, on the map below).
(2) The initial route for the new, longer left-turn was most likely devised by Belgocontrol, based on their interpretation of the principles contained in the 2008-2010 Conseil des Ministres agreements (i.e. flying over the least densely populated areas along the shortest routes). This routealignment can be consulted on the blog of Georges Dallemagne, a CDH parliamentary deputy from Woluwé-Saint-Pierre (WSP), who took part in the Wathelet’s office’s deliberations (see turn 2, in blue, on the map below). This shows the proposed left-turn at 1 700 feet directly towards the parc de la Woluwe before flying vertically across the E411 motorway interchange. Both the blog and the map it features are accessible on the internet (http://www.georgesdallemagne.be). We therefore made a copy to share with you (see ‘Sources’ document beneath the map below). Of course, we do not think this turn would have been a good solution, because it would still have flown over a lot more people than turn 1 above. On the other hand, we think it likely that this turn option did not go down well with certain people, resulting in an even worse solution being devised and put forward...
(3) In the following months, the turn was moved towards the west of Brussels, and therefore towards even more densely populated areas, the increasingly obvious intention being to spare WSP. The official route-alignment was eventually chosen on 18/06/2012 and submitted in July 2012 to the Brussels Region, represented by Mrs Huytebroeck (see turn 3, in green, on the map below). The new turn therefore passes closer to the centre of Brussels and to the south of the E411 interchange, and re-joins the motorway well beyond the limits of the Brussels Region (in contrast to turn 2).
(4) On 6 February 2014, the new, long turn was introduced. In the cold light of day, the actual route (the corridor in the centre of Belgocontrol’s radar plots) takes aircraft even deeper into Brussels, increasing still further the number of people below the flight path (see turn 4, in red, on the map below). This even longer turn bisects the commune of Etterbeek from end to end before heading up Boulevard du Triomphe and then over the town hall in the commune of Watermael-Boitsfort, which is now being used as a ‘way-point’ (= compulsory navigation point for aircraft) in the most cynical of manners, before re-joining the E411 south of the interchange.
How can the Belgian Government minister responsible for this plan (Melchior Wathelet) and politicians in WSP (Messrs Cerexhe and Dallemagne from the same CDH party, as beneficiaries of this plan, claim to be defending the general interest when they have simply “cobbled together” increasingly more outrageous flight paths?
4. Zero consultation with the Brussels Region
The Belgian Government agreement in December 2011 called on Wathelet’s office to enter into consultations with the Brussels Region. In July 2012, Wathelet’s office therefore submitted to Mrs Huytebroeck a map showing the new left-turn (map 3 above).
Mrs Huytebroeck wrote several letters to Wathelet’s office to express her disagreement with this proposal. None of her letters received an answer.
In short, Wathelet’s office has simply imposed a form of diktat rather than any form of consultation.
How can Secretary of State Wathelet claim compliance with the 2011 Belgian Government agreement, which demanded consultation?
These are just some of the elements taken from a dossier which contains a cocktail of dysfunction, abuse of power, self-serving political manoeuvring and incompetence.
Pas Question! believes it is self-evident that Wathelet’s office violated the 2008-2010 Conseil des Ministres agreements, that this plan is worse than all the previous ones, and that it is not necessary to set up a control body in order to demonstrate this.
Pas Question! is therefore demanding the immediate suspension of the plan before the May elections in order to enable the adoption later on, in a calmer climate, of a new plan based on an objective, concerted and transparent process. Lastly, this new plan must include structural measures to address the problems caused by having an airport so close to a city of 1.1 million inhabitants.