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Government and Antwerp airport operator acquitted again


The Antwerp criminal court again acquitted the owner and operator of Antwerp Airport on Friday for what opponents called an illegal expansion of the runway in agricultural areas. An appeal was immediately announced.

The airport in Deurne (Antwerp) has both a landlord and an operator. The landlord is the Flemish Region (via the project company LOM Vlaanderen). The operator is the French group Egis, active through the Luchthaven Exploitatie Maatschappij (LEM Antwerp) company. The two parties were before the criminal court, after prosecution by the public prosecutor.

According to the indictment, Antwerp Airport expanded in 2014, with the aim of attracting larger aircraft, without the necessary permits. The expansion – with a so-called RESA safety zone – was partly located on agricultural land. A number of reports have been drawn up by enforcement authorities.

The public prosecutor had demanded fines against both defendants. The Bond Beter Leefmilieu, Mortsel, Borsbeek and the Verlenging Nooit association had filed civil proceedings. It was additionally requested that the airport should again work within the old contours. Which could mean that the airport will no longer be interesting for larger commercial flights.


But the court acquitted both LOM and LEM. The court’s reasoning is not yet known. “We are satisfied with this ruling,” says Bruno De Saegher, chairman of the LOM. “Four years ago, the court acquitted LOM Flanders for the alleged urban planning and environmental crimes at Antwerp Airport. With the current judgment, the court once again follows our argumentation.”

“We did not immediately expect this outcome,” says Piet De Roeck of Vliegerplein/Verlenging Nooit. “We will appeal anyway. All parties agreed that the two cases would be consolidated on appeal. The Court of Appeal was even waiting for this ruling so that it could consider all complaints together.” According to De Roek, this treatment will start in April this year.

The mayor of Borsbeek is also disappointed. “It’s sad, because the findings from the environmental inspectorate were clear, with a heavy claim from the public prosecutor’s office,” says Dis Van Berckelaer (Alleen Borsbeek). “We will still look at the motivation, but the chance that Borsbeek will appeal is rather small, partly for financial reasons.”

In the meantime, the public inquiry has also started with which Antwerp Airport wants to obtain a new environmental permit. The current permit allows the airport to operate until June 17 of this year. The application also includes a request to add the disputed plots to the permit.

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