Herman Bruyns in front of his vacant commercial property.

Herman Bruyns in front of his vacant commercial property. © kristin matthyssen

Westmalle

The municipality of Malle is continuing with the expropriation of the neglected former retail building Oogappel on the corner of Antwerpsesteenweg and Leopold III-laan in Westmalle. To the disapproval of the opposition parties, who understand that something must be done, but cannot find a solution to forced expropriation. “The expropriation has yet to come to court,” said Mayor Sanne Van Looy (N-VA). “We remain open to dialogue with the owner.”

Kristin Matthyssen

Majority against opposition, the final decision to expropriate the former shoe store Oogappel was approved. Herman Bruyns (54) bought the property in 2001 with the intention of setting up a shop there. Which, due to all sorts of setbacks, still isn’t there. In the meantime, the weeds are sprouting from the ground and everything gives a run-down impression. The municipality now wants to put an end to the vacancy. Malle now wants to develop a project for affordable housing there.

Herman Bruyns heard it himself ‘live’, because he is one of the few citizens who faithfully attends the municipal council every month from the public benches.

The opposition also believes that something should be done, but not in this way, and disapproves of the attitude of the majority parties.

The court will now first have to rule on the expropriation. Last year in March the provisional expropriation decision was approved, which also led to a public inquiry. Then one objection came in, from the owner himself, which indicates that the neighborhood also wants something to happen. “The owner then reported that he had submitted a renewal proposal and had concrete plans to start something,” says Mayor Van Looy. “But that was also a year ago, and nothing has changed. So we definitely gave him the chance. The talks have been going on since 2019.”

The owner wants to see with his lawyer what steps he can still take. “We remain open to dialogue,” says the mayor. “Expropriation is really the very last stick behind the door that we don’t like to use either. But if vacancy charges and talks don’t help, it will be difficult.”

Bruyns will discuss with his counsel how best to react now. He continues to maintain that he has plans to start his own shop with a social approach, which would immediately be good for his own reintegration into the labor market, since he is chronically ill.

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