Despite the corona restrictions, the municipality of Wommelgem makes no effort to involve the residents of two old village streets in the largest public works of this administrative period. After they had previously been given ample opportunity to participate through workshops and information markets, about a hundred residents just showed up in the new leisure center Brieleke. After showing their Covid Safe Ticket and wearing a mouth mask, they received a very detailed explanation of the final design and the practical consequences of the intervention.
Alderman of Public Works Alex Helsen (N-VA), normally the host, was forced to remain absent from the information meeting. He is still in quarantine at home after a corona infection. But his head of Territory Affairs Nathalie Govaerts and Hans Goovaerts of design agency Gowaco were excellent at their information task.
Not a prestige project
“We may call our approach ‘future street’, but this is not a prestige project”, alderman of Public Works Alex Helsen (N-VA) defends himself on our question about the criticism of the cost price of 3.6 million euros and the some overly opulent design. “We started this out of necessity. The sewers under both Ternesselei and Dasstraat are eighty years old and worn out. We have made a virtue of necessity by immediately taking care of the top side.”
The Dasstraat, now still a worn cobblestone road, and the Ternesselei by extension are indeed undergoing a complete metamorphosis. For example, the Ternesselei will not have an ordinary boring sidewalk, but an organic winding walking path between trees, flower beds and prairie meadows. Sometimes it is on the side with the even house numbers, then on the other side.
Walking to the village center of Wommelgem will soon have the allure of a nature walk, although most of the current colossal lime trees have to be removed. “Because it is technically impossible or because they no longer fit in the new concept. But we will provide a lot of greenery instead and we will ensure that the roadsides are softened on a massive scale. In addition, playgrounds and equipment are also provided for both small and older children,” says Alex Helsen.
Both streets will be car-free and together will form a zone 30. “In the Ternesselei we don’t do this with thresholds, but by providing narrow lanes and a roadside verge that can be driven over with grass troughs. The Dasstraat will even become an official bicycle street, where two-wheelers will have absolute priority,” Helsen shows the plans.
Too few parking spaces
Quite a few residents have questions about the provided parking. “We based ourselves on counts at three different times”, explains Nathalie Govaerts how the municipality arrived at the number in the design. The residents fear that that number will not be enough and refer, among other things, to the tennis clubs Ten Hoeve and Forest Hills as culprits. Parking and traffic chaos in the area, especially during tournaments.
Schepen Helsen does not think it is the municipality’s task to create private parking spaces for tennis clubs. He points out that parking spaces on public roads are in principle intended for everyone. “But we are in talks with the two clubs to see how we can improve mobility around their two sites. This may be possible by allowing access to Forest Hills no longer via the Ternesselei, but only via the SME zone. To be continued for sure,” said Helsen.
Herman Palsmans, who has lived in Ternesselei with partner Hedwig for 36 years, sees it positively. “It looks like our street will become more beautiful and quieter. This also applies to Dasstraat. As a consultant for seniors, I know that this street now generates many complaints because it is not easily accessible for seniors or for people with disabilities. I just wonder whether crossing the renovated streets will not be a problem due to the lack of zebra crossings,” said Plasmans.
The utility companies will start replacing their pipes in April 2022. In August, the road workers will take over. They start at the roundabout with Hoevenstraat and work in the direction of Doornaardstraat before moving on to the center. By the summer of 2023, the last piece of Dasstraat to the roundabout with Handboogstraat at the administrative center should also be ready.
The plan to immediately cut the current Doornaardstraat – Nijverheidsstraat connection has been abandoned by the local government for the time being. Apparently this is too sensitive and one wants to look at it separately later. It is certain, however, that the bridge of the Doornaardstraat will become an exclusive bicycle bridge after the new bridge over the E313 on the Wijnegemsteenweg – normally at the end of 2022.(jaa)