- Geert Bourgeois, Flemish Minister-President and in charge of historic buildings conservation
This huge coal preparation plant is part of the Beringen mining site, a large former coal mine in the Flemish province of Limburg (Belgium). The coal mine is an important example of the large-scale developments in coal extraction in Europe and the rest of the world in the 20th century.
The construction of this large coal preparation plant started in 1923-1924 (coal preparation plant 1) and this first part was later expanded with coal washers 2,3 and 4. The four parts together form one massive building in iron, steel, brick and glass, which not only dominates the mine site but also the surrounding area.
The entire coal mine of Beringen, including the four parts of the coal preparation plant, was legally protected as a monument by the Flemish Government in 1993 and 1994.
In 2009, the redevelopment of the mine was assigned to PPP company, with the main partner being LRM (the Limburg Reconversion Company - a company set up and controlled by the Flemish Government) together with a number of construction and real estate companies. They concluded that the maintenance of the complete coal preparation plant would not be possible and decided - without a thorough study of the building history - on the imminent demolition of coal preparation plants 1 and 3. On the site of coal preparation plant I a car parking would be developed.
Just before the summer break, the PPS company BE-Mine applied for a demolition permit for coal preparation plant n° 1. It was also announced that once this coal preparation plant n°1 had been demolished, the procedure to demolish plant n° 3 would be started. Although there seemed to be a political agreement about the demolition, the legal protection of the building has not yet been lifted and apparently the request for demolition does not take this into account.
In mid-October the demolition permit was refused by the Beringen town council, because of the heritage value of the building and its protected status. The PPP company, however, appealed to the province of Limburg, which now has to study the case and decide before 1st of March 2018. Meanwhile, there is a lot of political pressure and lobbying going on to obtain the demolition permit.
The demolition of a large part of this legally protected building ignores the importance of the integrity of a historic building. The demolition of the first part could create a dangerous precedent for further damage and destruction, leading to the loss of the value of the entire plant. It will also create a dangerous precedent for other protected buildings in Flanders, if one is permitted to demolish part of a historic monument without obeying to the legally prescribed procedures.
We can regard this as an ominous signal at the start of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018.
On January 16th it was announced that the coal preparation plant at the Beringen coal mine was selected by an international panel of experts to be one of the 12 heritage sites on the shortlist for the 'The 7 Most Endangered' program in 2018. This is a campaign of Europa Nostra, the leading heritage organization in Europe, the European Investment Bank Institute, and is supported by the Creative Culture program of the European Commission
The ‘Vlaamse Vereniging voor Industriële Archeologie’ (VVIA, Flemish Association for Industrial Archeology), the platform of private associations and volunteers working in Flanders and Brussels for the preservation, interpretation and valuation of industrial heritage, fully supports the [omit] actions for the preservation and re-evaluation of this important building. VVIA was established on May 1st 1978 and as such is the oldest nationally operating industrial heritage association on the European continent.
The coal preparation plant of the former coal mine of Beringen is one of the most important and in any case the largest building in Flanders, which is legally protected as a monument because of its industrial archaeological significance. It dominates the whole environment and is a dramatic example of the development of large-scale mining in the 20th century
We, the undersigned, therefore ask the Minister, and all services and institutions involved in the decision-making process
1) not to grant a permit for the demolition of any parts of this unique building complex
2) not to lift or modify the protected status of the coal preparation plant in order to facilitate the demolition (of parts) of the building
3) to protect the buildings from decay and to keep them intact, and at the same time to carry out a serious architectural and feasibility study for the re-use, interpretation and re-evaluation of this coal preparation plant. We propose, among other things, to launch a European ideas competition for this building
4) to find the necessary funds for this and make them available.
The SAVE the coal preparation plant of Beringen (Belgium) petition to Geert Bourgeois, Flemish Minister-President and in charge of historic buildings conservation was written by VVIA vzw and is in the category City & Town Planning at GoPetition.