Charleroi Métropole, the first green belt of Brussels
A territory on the fringe of some of the world’s most attractive areas
Charleroi Métropole is the first southern fringe on an axis that extends from Greater London to the Netherlands, Brussels and Flanders, ensuring that it is singularly well placed to benefit from the clustering effects of this axis.
This proximity should allow the Charleroi Métropole territory to integrate into it. The idea is not to become a receptacle for everything that the area of richness would prefer to hive off. Instead the aim is to rely on the low cost of real estate and the available space in the territory to attract inhabitants and the activities that are generated by this giga-metropolis, integrating them in the longer term into the perspective of which Charleroi is already a part. The keywords are thus parsimony of use, resilience of the built areas and high-quality architecture. The territorial development plan, the SDT (from the French, schéma de développement du territoire) is intended to let it capitalise on this proximity and become part of it.
Brownfields as a zone of potential in modern thinking
Brownfields, which look industrial without actually being industrial, are becoming increasingly attractive. Territories are recycling these spaces that were once dedicated to heavy production, using them in new ways in today’s knowledge economy.
The aesthetic value of these former industrial sites is not the only driver for their conversion, however. The spatial growth and spread of metropolises means that these sites are reintegrated into the urban fabric. Their property values increase as a result, opening the way to their decontamination and redevelopment.
But these other drivers seem to be both created for and creators of support for the territory’s appeal. In any event, “the territory now joins the economic system as a matrix for social organisation and interaction, and no longer, first and foremost, as a building stock or collection of technical resources”.
In this perspective, the future of industrial brownfields and contaminated land must be renewed and must participate in the wealth of the living environment.
Charleroi Métropole’s unique nature
The territory has natural areas of amazing beauty, which start at the confluence of the Eau d’Heure lakes with the River Sambre. This intense green lung is the closest nature area to one of the most densely populated areas in Northern Europe. Charleroi Métropole therefore has a natural heritage that would benefit from being highlighted as the first terroir that one accesses from the North.
The territorial structure of Charleroi Métropole ensures a coherence among the territory’s various components:
- The plateaus and the dominant landscape features that structure them;
- The specific interfaces and roles where this structure manifests itself;
- The transversal elements as structures that establish links within this basin;
- The urban centres at the intersection of these systems.
The rebooted Métropole
This clear structure is the cornerstone of the territorial redevelopment plan, enabling it to focus on the fundamentals in a high-quality and ambitious manner.
Embedding Charleroi in the metropolis of the North
In 2040, Charleroi Métropole will position itself in the fluid psychological and physical connection with the anchor points of Brussels and Brabant. The 20th century production zone (Gosselies) will be reintegrated into a soft network with its employment area. The Sambre line and its industrial past will be used as a starting point for a new and facilitated way of thinking that is contemporary and based on experiences. A second transition occurs at the confluence of the Eau d’Heure, where the urban intensity ends and a new system starts in which the dominance of nature is the biggest asset.
All of the land will be transformed from a territory to a terroir
At the same time, the rural municipalities as a whole will be able to capitalise on their natural resources, relying on their agricultural production which is based on the notion of terroir. Ham-sur-Heure is the first village at 200 metres of altitude when arriving from Amsterdam, Antwerp or Brussels. Froidchapelle is the first at 300 metres. These differences must be promoted and connected, reinforcing the quality of life and capitalising on them to improve the territory’s resilience. These municipalities will have production areas geared towards the residential economy, optimising the returns of the in-place economy. They are located in the first rural area with significant hills that one encounters in Northern Europe.
The southern territory of Charleroi Métropole will transform from an indeterminate territory into a real terroir: a land, a landscape, a savoir-faire. The territory will invent an effective and efficient inhabited system within a markedly rural area with links to a wilder nature beyond.