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Future Europe features a podcast episode from each of the EU’s 28 Member States. Each episode tells the story of a project that illuminates the way Europeans will live in the future. All the stories are told through the voices of people involved in the projects.
Transformed by Belgium smart cities infrastructure
Annemie de Pauw remembers how the center of Wetteren used to look. “It was gloomy, desolate.” Now her hometown has been “transformed into an asset for everyday life.”
Annemie works in Wetteren’s gleaming new town hall. The building is virtually carbon neutral and is easily accessible for disabled and elderly people with lifts from an underground car park.
Wetteren, which has around 25,000 inhabitants, is one of over a hundred ‘Smart City’ projects in Belgium, which aim to keep in place traditional services while making them more responsive and efficient. Wetteren’s renewal began with an idea from Belgium’s Belfius Bank. It recognised that municipalities needed support to encourage and enable more energy efficiency, urban renewal projects and mobility. So the Bank came up with its Smart Cities and Sustainable Development Programme.
“The idea is to make people’s lives better and to help them surmount any challenges they face in a sustainable and eco-friendly way,” says Jeroen Vandevelde, who manages the Belfius programme.
EU bank finances Belgium smart cities infrastructure
The European Investment Bank saw the social and environmental benefits of the programme and joined in funding more than 100 projects throughout Belgium.
Wetteren redeveloped a brownfield site right in the heart of the city centre next to the River Scheldt. In addition to the new town hall, this area now boasts 67 apartments, a post office and cafes around an open square with fountains.
There’s underground parking, which means the new site is car free. There is also a new bridge across the river reserved for pedestrians and cyclists, allowing easy access to the city centre and its schools. A regional court of justice is also on the way.