Flemish Government Architect’s scan: Lier
Lier’s core strength
Lier is a fast-growing town of more than 36,000 residents in the southwestern part of Antwerp province, on the banks of the river Nete. Lier’s core strength is its unique position linking the urban area of greater Antwerp with the open countryside of the Kempen region. Thanks to its amenities, infrastructure and natural areas, Lier has the potential to become the perfect residential community nestled at the heart of a regional structure of green spaces and water. The Flemish Government Architect’s scan investigated how the city could achieve this.
Lier is a pleasant, attractive town, and the spatial qualities that make it desirable today can be expanded on. Historical developments have caused it to shrink to a relatively compact size. It has a lovely town centre surrounded by a green belt, the Stadsvesten. Lier’s outstanding accessibility, local educational institutions and status as a hub for the surrounding urban and rural areas make it a highly attractive place to live. In addition, opportunities abound with respect to the “blue-green” infrastructure in and around the town. This includes the Stadsvesten, the area around the Fortress of Lier, and the areas along the Beneden-Nete and Kleine Nete rivers.
Alongside its strengths and opportunities, Lier also has areas that need improvement. In some places, the rail and road infrastructure creates a literal barrier between the town centre and the residential neighbourhoods. At the same time, attractive, safe bicycle and pedestrian routes are lacking. Here, as in most places in Flanders, mobility is focused primarily on automobiles, while excellent opportunities for other modes of transport go unexploited. The spatial quality of interchanges such as the area around the station does not currently live up to the urban standard Lier would like to achieve. In addition, a growing demand for housing calls for innovative dwelling types and sustainable densification inside the ring road. Existing residential expansion areas do not meet these requirements. Finally, there are gains to be made through looking critically at how functions can be bundled outside the built-up area to preserve precious open space. These could include, e.g., energy, greenhouse farming, commercial space and logistical services.
Lier’s core strength points to four ambitions for the town, which will help to make it a more sustainable and attractive place at the local, municipal and regional levels:
- Making the most of the blue-green valley around the Nete. For example, by linking natural areas to create a continuous ecological network; building and completing regional bicycle routes; and creating a framework for transforming agricultural and recreational areas into natural ones.
- Creating a new balance in open space. For example, by adapting greenhouse farming policy (e.g., with respect to the concentration of greenhouses) to make more room for nature and recreation; creating small-scale ecological networks; and appointing an agriculturalist as an active open space warden.
- Greening the Stadsvesten as part of the strategy for improving accessibility and softening the town centre. For example, building a continuous cycle and pedestrian path on the Stadsvesten, depaving certain streets and car parks, and opening private gardens at educational institutions to the public.
- Improving quality of life and densifying the zone between the ring road and the Stadsvesten. For example, by expanding the housing supply solely through densification and new construction inside the ring road, greening the residential neighbourhoods, upgrading public transport and cycle links to Antwerp and the rest of the region, and building mobility hubs along the ring road.
Ann Hellemans, urban planning expert for the town of Lier: “The rollout of the Flemish government architect’s scan came at the perfect time for Lier. In the transition to a new multiyear cycle, the formulation of a spatial policy plan for the town was already underway. The collaboration with the designers and the Flemish Government Architect’s team went really well. The town of Lier regards the scan as external expert advice and will refer to it on a regular basis during the policy planning process. It has yielded a sound spatial analysis with policy recommendations, organised around four ambitions, which will serve as a launching pad for the continuing work ahead.”To the report (in Dutch)