Environmental permit refused for large golf course with hotel in Knokke-Heist

Flemish Environment Minister Zuhal Demir said on Wednesday that she had refused the environmental permit requested for the vast golf course project with hotel in Knokke-Heist, which businessman Paul Gheysens (Ghelamco), figure of the real estate, has been striving for many years.

The planned land elevations would spoil the open polder landscape, justifies Minister N-VA among others. The permit application comes from Leisure Property Invest, one of the companies of the CEO of Ghelamco and president of the Antwerp football club, and includes an “ecological” 18-hole course (designed by Jack Nicklaus) suitable for international golf competitions, a 9-hole course, a clubhouse with a driving range… on a 120 hectare site. The project also includes a hotel with 150 rooms and 200 luxury suites, with a congress centre, 1,350 parking spaces and a building comprising dozens of apartments for the employees of the complex.

The public inquiry led to several objections, including one that made the press happy: that of Peter Taffeiren, neighbor of the project, himself ex-CEO and co-founder of the property developer POC Partners. Peter Taffeiren and his wife are themselves settled in the polders with their “Knokke Horses” stud farm, very close to the site where Paul Gheysens intends to develop his enormous complex (which would be a godsend for the locality in terms of tourism).

“Golf War”

The two figures of Flemish real estate clash on this file, so much so that the Flemish press sometimes speaks of a little “war of golf”. Ironically, the two men have a lot in common, between success in real estate and a passion for horses.

While claiming not to be interested in this confrontation “of roosters”, Minister Demir shared in his justifications elements put forward by Peter Taffeiren. The main argument is that the project does not respect the spatial execution plans of the municipality nor the maintenance of the open landscape of the polders. The project is indeed counting on a heightening of the ground by 2 to 3 meters, or even 7.5 per location.

Before this refusal, the file had received positive opinions. But, assures the minister, it is because he always had the “benefit of the doubt”.

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