Environmental permit grants Club Brugge breakthrough for stadium project

Club Brugge’s 15-year wait to secure a new stadium appears to be nearing an end after the Flemish Government today (Wednesday) announced that it will grant an environmental permit for the project.

The Belgian Pro League football club first discussed ideas for a new stadium back in 2007, but has faced numerous challenges in its efforts to develop at a number of sites. In October 2020, Club Brugge was dealt what was seen as potentially decisive blow in its efforts to develop a new stadium, with Belgium’s Council of State ruling that a facility for city rival Cercle could not be be developed along Blankenbergse Steenweg.

The two clubs are engaged in separate stadium projects, with Club deciding in January 2020 to commit to demolishing and replacing Jan Breydel Stadion, which is owned by the City of Bruges. Cercle also plays at Jan Breydel Stadion, with a condition of a new stadium for Club being that its rival be provided with a new home on Blankenbergse Steenweg. However, the Council of State, Belgium’s supreme administrative court, ruled that this could not take place.

Mayor of Bruges, Dirk de Fauw, earlier said Club will have one of the most beautiful stadia in Europe, after plans for the project were presented. A group led by Belgian architecture firm B2Ai and French counterpart SCAU have been appointed to develop the plans, which are set to see a new stadium (pictured) built on the site of the 29,000-seat Jan Breydel Stadion.

The new stadium will seat 40,116 fans, is intended to provide a more intimate experience, and includes a number of eye-catching design elements. These will include its exterior being draped in a special type of highly resistant perforated textile covering, and its interior feature a 12,500-seat stand modelled on the famous ‘yellow wall’ at Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park.

The project will also involve the development of an ‘Olympia Park’ around the new stadium, which will serve as a neighbourhood park for local residents on non-match days.

The announcement over the environmental permit for the new stadium was made today by the Flemish Government’s Minister for the Environment, Zuhal Demir, and Minister for the Economy, Hilde Crevits. “Finally,” Demir said, according to Flemish broadcaster VRT. “The agony of 15 years is coming to an end.”

The new stadium will not be granted permission to be used for music concerts, in order to limit the impact on local residents, while the exact site of Jan Breydel Stadion will eventually be transformed into a green zone.

“There are conditions attached to the permit, such as solving mobility problems and planting urban greenery,” said Demir. “If there is no match, the green (zone) around the football stadium must be opened up, and there must also be a complaints point for the neighbourhood. The 3,000 parking spaces will function as a park zone on non-match days.”

Local residents, or Cercle, can still lodge an appeal against the environmental permit decision within 45 days. However, Demir said she hoped it won’t come to that, adding the authorities are doing “everything we can to give the Cercle fans a new home”.

Demir said: “We live in a constitutional state of course. But the concerns of the neighbourhood are included in the permit… and I hope that after 15 years this stadium can be built.”

Commenting on today’s announcement, Club Brugge president, Bart Verhaeghe, said: “The permit for the new stadium is a milestone for Club Brugge. It finally offers prospects for tens of thousands of football fans, because the safety problems of the very outdated and worn-out Jan Breydel Stadion are becoming more urgent day by day. 

“That is why I am grateful to everyone who takes his or her responsibility in the Bruges stadium file, in particular the Flemish government and the City of Bruges. Overall, the new stadium will cause less nuisance than the current Jan Breydel Stadion. Moreover, we can seize the unique opportunity to make the area greener with the construction of a new Olympia Park. Let’s work together positively and deal responsibly with these enormous opportunities.”

Cercle said in a statement: “In recent weeks, Cercle Brugge has held constructive talks with both the city council and the Flemish Government, whereby a definitive solution for all parties involved must remain the starting point. Cercle Brugge is therefore looking at what further steps it will take.”

Image: B2Ai