Liège, Belgium: La Chartreuse – a new ZAD

On 27 March, upon the threat of the concreting over of the Chartreuse Park in Lièg, local residents and activists occupied the area and built barricades to protect the green space from the Matexi real estate developer. This is quick look back at the first two weeks of the occupation and the previous struggle against the development plans.

The Chartreuse is a green wetland in the heart of Liège. The site is protected because it has an important biodiversity (and also protected buildings). Until the early 1980s, it was occupied by a military barracks, with an old fort and other old buildings.

The site was then abandoned by the state and later put up for sale. In 1998, the city of Liège acquired the wooded area and turned it into a park. In 2003, the fort and its surroundings were put up for sale by the army and then bought by a real estate company that intended to make a profit on reselling the site broken up in three parts.

Two parts were bought by Immo Chartreuse, the third part along the historical street of the Thier de la Chartreuse was purchased by the real estate developer Matexi. It is this company which has been threatening the area for years, with its plan to build several dozen luxury homes.

Everything accelerated when the planning permission was granted to Matexi on 18 March 2022. An appeal to suspend the permit was quickly filed by the association “Un Air de Chartreuse”, composed of local residents who had already been fighting against the real estate project for several years. The appeal was rejected on 1 April by the Council of State.

The Council of State rejected the urgency of the appeal. The appeal for the cancellation of the building permit therefore continues, but may take several months, or even more than a year, to be processed. In the meantime, there is no legal inhibition on the works starting. Owing to the imminent threat of construction, the area is now occupied and defended.

Contrary to what some media sources would have us believe, with the headline that “an ecological war” is brewing in Liège, trying to make the occupiers look like dangerous radicals and to marginalise them, the place remains open. Concerts, events and other activities are organised there to raise awareness of the campaign, and its grounds are used by walkers, local residents and others who support the occupation. Indeed, it is only because the local residents have been fighting against the project so long that it is not developed already.

In 2017, a petition launched by “Un Air de Chartreuse” collected more than 5,000 signatures in support. The construction plan has been revised several times in the face of the mobilisation of local residents who are largely opposed. They do not want to make any concessions and propose to Matexi to exchange the land with an area belonging to the city of Liège, which is not wooded.

The project appears even more crazy when the permit is granted in the middle of a bird-nesting period, when the Chartreuse is a wetland, and therefore essential during floods, serving to capture floods, to retain them, or to slow down runoff … How can we not draw a parallel with the floods of this summer of 2021, when we know that one of the causes is precisely the increasingly concrete development of the territory?

We therefore invite our readers to support the ZAD de la Chartreuse, by going there, bringing material, spreading news …

Translated from