A new study published by Groen shows that in Flanders, 7 hectares of green space disappear under concrete every day. Several media outlets have also reported on this issue, but what does Statbel’s geographical data actually show?
According to Mieke Schauvliege, Flemish MP for the Groen party, an average of 7.16 hectares of green space disappears under concrete every day in Flanders, equivalent to 14 soccer pitches.
LAND APPROPRIATION IS MORE THAN THE DISAPPEARANCE OF NATURE UNDER CONCRETE
The surface area occupied by human activity is called land use: “the space occupied by our establishments, i.e. housing, industrial and commercial uses, transport infrastructures, leisure activities, greenhouses, etc.”.
Ground cover is not limited to natural soil covered with concrete or asphalt. In addition to buildings and roads, parks and gardens are also included in this definition. The part of the earth connection where impermeable materials have been applied to the floor is the covering. This alters the condition of the soil surface “leading to a loss of essential soil ecosystem functions”.
It is estimated that 16% of Flanders’ total surface area is paved, while land use occupies 33% of the Flemish territory.
BETWEEN 2013 AND 2016, LAND WITHDRAWALS INCREASED BY AN AVERAGE OF 6.4 HA PER DAY.
Land use is measured in different ways. According to Tom Coppens, Professor of Spatial Planning at the University of Antwerp, the most accurate method “is the measurement carried out by VITO (Flemish Institute for Technological Research) on the basis of land-use maps. This requires a lot of work, so there are no time series” (e-mail traffic, July 2, 2020).
Measurements are taken every three years and can be consulted on the website of the Flemish Department of the Environment. A reference measurement took place in 2013, the next and most recent measurement in 2016. Land area increased from 443,253 hectares to 450,229 hectares. Between 2013 and 2016, 6,976 ha were added, an average of 6.4 ha per day.
IN 2018, THE SURFACE AREA OF BUILT-UP PLOTS BEARING A CADASTRAL NUMBER INCREASED BY AN AVERAGE OF 7.16 HA PER DAY.
To calculate more recent figures, Schauvliege informed us (mail traffic, July 1, 2020), Groen based itself on the cultivated area according to the land register. These figures are kept by Statbel.
The surface area does not correspond exactly to the footprint. A distinction is made between undeveloped and developed plots. The latter includes only parcels with cadastral numbers, but roads and parks with cadastral numbers are also missing.
Natuurpunt used the same figures for its 2018 Concrete Report and calculated that between 2005 and 2015, 6 hectares of built-up area were added per day.
On January 1, 2018, the built-up area was 262,300 hectares according to the land registry; on January 1, 2019, it was 264,914 hectares. Dividing the difference between 2019 and 2018 by the number of days, 7.16 ha per day of built-up area were added in 2018.
Changes in the number of hectares of built-up land in Flanders over the past 6 years (source: Statbel)
IN 2018, THE SURFACE AREA OF CULTIVATED LAND INCREASED DAILY BY AN AVERAGE OF 6.1 HA.
In addition, Statbel also tracks land use, which involves the same measurement via the land register, but corrected with the unregistered area, so that, for example, traffic zones are also taken into account.
The built-up area here is much higher than on the basis of the land register, but still lower than that of the Ministry of the Environment. In 2019, there were 387,748 ha of built-up area, compared with 385,520 in 2018, an increase of 6.1 ha per day.
Changes in the number of hectares of built-up and associated land in Flanders over the last 6 years (source: Statbel)
According to Coppens, this measurement is less accurate: “in 2018, a correction was made to the calculation method, as a result of which the figures for 2018 and 2019 are effectively no longer comparable with those for 2017”. This explains the sharp increase recorded in 2017.
THE TARGET IS 0 ADDITIONAL HA PER DAY BY 2040.
In 2016, the Flemish government approved Flanders’ spatial policy plan. The aim is to reduce average daily consumption by
3 ha per day in 2025 and 0 ha in 2040. In addition, the aim is to reduce the degree of coating by 20% by 2025.
The most precise measurements carried out by VITO indicate that between 2013 and 2016, an average of 6.4 hectares per day of land take for human activity was added. Note that this includes gardens and parks.