Methods and strategies to monitor and manage human impact on urbanized protected areas (UPA)

Case 4: Impact of low density dwelling on UPA

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Faculty of Architecture and Arts


Prof. dr. Oswald Devisch


The National park is surrounded by low density settlements, mainly composed of detached single family housing. This type of settlements are currently facing three challenges in Flanders: an ecologic, a social and an economic one. The ecologic challenge refers to issues such as the high energy consumption, the car dependency, and the fragmentation of biotopes, all caused by the low density of these subdivisions and their green and remote location. The social challenge refers to the increasing demographic diversification, both in age and in ethnicity. In the current residential subdivisions, there are no spaces where this diversity can meet in order to learn to live together. The economic challenge refers to the oversupply of houses and buildable land. This will, in the short term, lead to a decrease in prices and possibly to a real-estate crisis. Especially the economic challenge is hitting the municipalities located in the East of the National Park very hard. The economic crisis in the Netherlands, at the start of the millennium, stopped the demand for large villa’s. As a consequence, villa-owners are not able to sell their property. Not even at a sharply reduced price. Another reason is the continuous development of new residential subdivisions. At a pace that is higher than the demand for new houses. As a consequence, old houses, often of a lower quality, don’t get sold. Except under the market value. Again people lose money.

The hypothesis is that the National Park can play a central role in this retrofitting operation. At this moment the relation between the residential subdivisions and the Park is quasi non-existent. Improving this relation may provide answers to the three challenges. And the other way round. The aim of the summerschool is to explore strategies to improve this relation. We will focus on one specific case in the municipality of Maasmechelen.