For some years, the municipality of Silly has been endeavouring to improve the energy efficiency of its buildings and rethink its public spaces in order to foster a convivial atmosphere, the use of environmentally-friendly means of transport and accessibility for persons with reduced mobility. This approach, which ties in perfectly with the EU2020 objectives of the European Union, has recently resulted in the development of two new 'smart, inclusive and sustainable' projects financed under the 'Smart Cities & Sustainable Development' programme of Belfius Banque and the European Investment Bank (EIB).

As soon as the 'Smart Cities & Sustainable Development' programme was launched in mid-2014, the municipality of Silly submitted a proposal for the financing of two projects aimed at enhancing the living conditions of its citizens and reducing its CO2 emissions, i.e. the full redevelopment of Square Camille Theys in the village of Bassilly and the installation of 42 photovoltaic panels on the main building of the municipal school in Graty.

It soon became apparent during the analysis of the proposal that these two projects were clearly based on a strategic, integrated and sustainable approach and they were therefore eligible to receive support under this financing programme. The EIB and Belfius also considered that these two projects provide the proof, if needed, that small municipalities can also become fully committed to the 'Smart Cities' initiative.

Located in the Province of Hainaut, Silly is a member of the international Cittaslow network (a combination of the Italian word for city 'città' and the English word 'slow'), which brings together more than 150 'cities where living is easy' located around the world, including six in Belgium. These cities with less than 50 000 inhabitants aim to foster a slower pace of life, inspired by the habits of rural communities, and improve the quality of life of their citizens by focusing in particular on reducing energy consumption, promoting clean energies, developing existing buildings, creating green spaces, leisure areas and greenways and giving priority to non-polluting modes of travel and public transport, etc. In short, all these commitments are fully consistent with the dynamic process that Belfius and the EIB are seeking to generate and stimulate through their 'Smart Cities and Sustainable Development' programme.

From an uncontrolled parking area to a convivial, multi-functional space

Until recently Square Camille Theys in the centre of the village of Bassilly was just a simple road section ending in a cul-de-sac and serving as a improvised and uncontrolled parking area for the users of the sports complex and for events held in the centre of the village.

Today, this space has been completely redeveloped into a pleasant and secure area, encouraging soft mobility. A dolomite path away from the road has been built for pedestrians, together with clearly distinguished pavements and parking spaces (including a space for persons with reduced mobility). It is also planned to replace the lighting eventually.

The total cost of this redevelopment work (including connections) is EUR 257 891, of which EUR 113 193 is covered by regional subsidies. The municipality's self-financing share amounts to EUR 39 698 and the remainder is the subject of a 'Smart Cities & Sustainable Development' loan from Belfius and the EIB.

A municipal school that generates green electricity

Thanks to the 'Smart Cities & Sustainable Development' programme, the municipal school in Graty, which was completely renovated in 2010 (insulation, double glazing, solar and heat pump heating system), has just been equipped with 42 photovoltaic panels with a total capacity of 10 920 kWc. With a photovoltaic surface area of around 68 m², the estimated output of this installation is 8 640 kWh.

At a time when budgets are becoming increasingly tight, this installation will help to reduce the municipality's overall energy bill and lower CO2 emissions by around 2.5 tonnes a year. The quantity of solar energy generated by the school and the reduction in CO2 of emissions is displayed on a screen in real time, thus making the public, and in particular the children, aware of the issue of global warming and the need for rational energy use.

The investment for this photovoltaic system totals 33 432 and is to be borne in full by the municipality. This amount is covered by a second separate 'Smart Cities & Sustainable Development' loan from Belfius and the EIB.

The advantageous conditions linked to the EU funds considerably reduce the interest charges on these two loans, which is beneficial to both the municipality's finances and its habitants.

Mayor of Silly Christian Leclercq, welcomed the financing of these two projects which have been made possible by the 'Smart Cities & Sustainable Development' programme of Belfius and the EIB. "Sustainable development is a integral part of our overall policy and these projects are an excellent practical example. It is not without reason that Silly was elected Hainaut's sustainable municipality in 2015, for its participation in the Cittaslow international network, by the Foundation for Future Generation,. Moreover, the municipality has just obtained funding from the National Lottery to undertake the communication for this network at the national level."

Belfius/EIB 'Smart Cities & Sustainable Development' Programme

Recently awarded a prized by the British magazine World Finance, the 'Smart Cities & Sustainable Development' financing programme is intended to make EUR 400 million available to local authorities in Belgium for the implementation of 'smart and sustainable' projects in line with the 'Smart Cities' approach and with a particular emphasis on mobility, urban development and/or energy efficiency.

The objective of this programme is to minimise borrowing costs for municipalities, CPAS (Public Social Action Centres) and inter-municipal utilities in order to support their innovative and sustainable approach. The EIB and Belfius are each providing half of the funds

A year and a half after the launch, progress is excellent. Several projects financed under this programme have already been completed or are currently under way, including the new town hall in Gembloux, the CNG plant of the inter-municipal waste management utility IMOG in Harelbeke, the renovation of the centre of Deinze and the development of La Croisette in Dinant. In addition, numerous other proposals are still under examination. The 'Smart Cities' initiative is clearly gaining momentum in Belgium and, as can be seen from the example of Silly, it is not limited to large cities. Small municipalities can also sign up to this approach.

Delighted with the success of the 'Smart Cities & Sustainable Development' programme, EIB Vice-President Pim van Ballekom, remarked: "The 'Smart Cities & Sustainable Development' programme is a first for Belgium and also for Europe. It aims to provide real impetus to the 'Smart Cities' initiative so that this approach can become the new standard for the development of the towns and cities of the future. 'Smart, inclusive and sustainable' projects as advocated by the EU's Europe 2020 strategy will be drivers of growth for these entities for the benefit of their citizens."

Dirk Gyselinck, member of Belfius Bank's Management Board, added: "Regardless of their size, towns have no other choice but to become smart in order to remain attractive. Even though there is no shortage of ideas, projects still run into financing hurdles too often when it comes to putting these ideas into practice. It is precisely to facilitate the implementation of the numerous smart projects throughout the country that are currently in the pipeline or at an embryonic stage that Belfius has developed the 'Smart Cities & Sustainable Development' programme with the EIB."

For further information about Belfius's 'Smart Cities' strategy: