• Sustainable mobility and development, low-energy facilities for the main square (Grand-Place), which is now safer, greener and more appealing
  • A new 606 m section of safe cycle path soon to be opened along the old L123 railway line
  • Two smart, sustainable projects devised in consultation with local residents and financed by Belfius and the EIB as part of their ‘Smart Cities and Sustainable Development’ programme 

Lower speed limits for safer roads, with special attention paid to cyclists and people with reduced mobility, wider pavements, low-energy LED lighting, public benches, plants and trees, 600 m2 of restored river bank areas, and stormwater directly channelled into the river Senne. Thanks to Belfius and the EIB’s joint Smart Cities & Sustainable Development programme, the Grand-Place has been completely transformed. It was inaugurated at 6.30 pm on 24 May in Quenast in the municipality of Rebecq (Walloon Brabant) in the presence of the local authorities, residents and representatives of Belfius and the EIB.

For several years, the Municipality of Rebecq has been endeavouring to improve the energy performance of its buildings and rethink its public spaces in order to foster a pleasant atmosphere, the use of environmentally-friendly means of transport and accessibility for people with reduced mobility. This approach is fully in keeping with a dynamic of sustainable development, which has recently resulted in the complete refurbishment and transformation of the Grand-Place in Quenast.

Roads partly rerouted, new speed limits of 30 km/h in places, attractive public spaces with flowers and trees, public benches, 55 parking spaces, including four reserved for people with reduced mobility, parking spaces for bicycles, installation of underground low voltage cables and new LED lighting that will cut electric power consumption by two-thirds, 600 m2 of restored river bank areas and 230 m of railings replaced, not to mention the channelling of stormwater directly into the river Senne to avoid unnecessary treatment costs.

The new Grand-Place in Quenast, devised and designed in consultation with local residents, obviously serves not just to make the town centre a more appealing and safer place but it also shows a clear desire on the part of the local authorities to promote sustainable mobility and ensure maximum accessibility for all, especially people with reduced mobility.

Favourable financing

Following an in-depth appraisal of the dossier, the experts at the EIB and Belfius concluded that this project truly displayed a strategic, integrated and sustainable approach and that it clearly met the criteria of their joint Smart Cities & Sustainable Development financing programme. The favourable terms of the EU funding made it possible to substantially reduce the interest charges, which is beneficial to both the municipality's budget and its residents.

In addition to the new Grand-Place in Quenast, another project promoted by the Municipality of Rebecq aimed at promoting sustainable mobility, is also being financed under the Smart Cities & Sustainable Development programme, namely the development of 1 km of safe cycle path along the old L123 railway line between Braine-le-Comte and Enghien. Chiefly used by walkers and farm vehicles, but virtually impassable for cyclists (apart from some mountain bikers), the Chemin Marais in Scailles will thus soon become an essential link in the cycling network, enabling people to reach the centre of Rebecq from the area of Rue Haute and Rue du Gibet (village of Rebecq-Rognon). These facilities are in response to an explicit request from the residents of this area who wished to see this section converted into a safe access route intended for non-polluting modes of travel, especially bicycles. Work on this project is scheduled to begin in September 2018 and is expected to last one and a half to two months.

Patricia Venturelli, acting Mayor of Rebecq, was delighted that these two projects benefited from the Smart Cities & Sustainable Development programme: “These two projects are designed to help strengthen the rural and sustainable character of our municipality. Our village squares must remain attractive, vibrant places where people can get together. The Chemin Marais cycle path in Scailles will provide a safe route for cyclists while retaining its typically rural nature.”

Belfius's Public & Social Banking Distribution Director for the Walloon Region Jean-Marie Bréban added: “In light of its historic partnership with public authorities and its role as a driver of the Belgian economy, Belfius is duty-bound to help cities and municipalities plan for the future and develop sustainable projects, thereby setting an example for businesses and other public authorities.

We are also particularly pleased that this new Grand-Place in Quenast, which was devised and designed in consultation with local residents, could be redeveloped thanks to the Smart Cities & Sustainable Development programme and that this favourable financing in partnership with the EIB enabled us to back the municipal authorities in their efforts to promote sustainable mobility and help make the centre of Quenast village a more appealing and safer place.”

EIB Director General Jean-Christophe Laloux said: “We are supporting the projects of the municipalities of the future with Belfius, our partner in Belgium, and the schemes being implemented in Quenast are fully in keeping with our ‘Smart Cities & Sustainable Development’ programme. 

Sustainable mobility, safer roads for all users thanks to upgrading, low-energy facilities and buildings and attractive public spaces are now essential elements for the people living in our towns and villages and for the sustainable development of these areas. We are delighted to have played our part in seeing this major project reach a successful conclusion. Through the EIB, the financial arm of the European Union, Europe is serving the people at the heart of its cities and regions.”

Already more than 100 projects, including 13 in Walloon Brabant

Since the June 2014 announcement of the partnership between Belfius and the EIB aimed at supporting the development of Smart Cities in Belgium – a European first – more than 100 smart and sustainable projects have benefited from this support and favourable financing terms. These include not only the new main square in Rebecq, but also La Croisette in Dinant, Belgium's first organic swimming pond on the redeveloped Belvédère site in Dour, the refurbishment of the Hastière tourist information office, the transformation of a dangerous crossroads into a pleasant village square in Heer-sur-Meuse, the energy efficiency refurbishment of the Gros-Chêne municipal school in Flémalle, the new Gembloux town hall, the new connected and low-energy CPAS rest and care home in Sambreville, the integrated library/academy in Alost, near-zero energy sheltered accommodation in Schelle, and the new fire station for the South-West Limburg emergency services area.

Local authorities can play a major role in combating global warming and developing the circular economy by setting an example and thereby encouraging companies, individuals and other organisations to implement environmentally-friendly initiatives of their own. Belfius and the EIB intend to support them as much as possible in this initiative with their joint Smart Cities, Climate Action & Circular Economy and Smart Cities & Sustainable Development financing programmes.