Only a handful of people live in Doel. The village is only really popular with artists, tourists and a few former residents.
The demolition has been canceled
Doel’s deflation began over 20 years ago. The government has moved as many residents as possible to other places. A new port area had to be built on the Doel site. But that did not happen: there will be only one new terminal next to Doel. However, the village is still there, but as a ghost village.
The Flemish government now wants to do something about it. And Minister Matthias Diependaele (Housing and real estate) is in a hurry. Before the summer, he wants to clarify how he can revive Doel. “We need to determine what housing options are available if there is a port terminal next door that will operate 24 hours a day.
Doel is literally under the smoke of Antwerp, on the Scheldt. A nuclear power station is located on the north side. The port is located on the south side.
Tourists in disaster
At the end of the 90s, around 1000 people lived in Doel. Then the demolition plans materialize: due to the freezing of constructions, the buyout, the demolition and the decay, there are only a few dozen left. Doel is now often visited by people who come to see the decay and graffiti.
“We have now received a number of tourists in disaster. It also causes inconvenience,” Jan Creve told RTL Nieuws. He is spokesperson for Doel 2020, an action group committed to the preservation of Doel. “I think it’s not that difficult to develop the village again.”
How Doel should then be developed, the minister will have to investigate in the coming months. See first, then believe, said Creve. The locals have a difficult relationship with the government.
In 2016, they enforced a court order forbidding Doel not to be wiped off the map: the village was listed on the map as a residential area in all zoning plans.
‘David against Goliath’
After this verdict, the conflict with the government eased. “In 2018, we came to an agreement with the government: the port expansion would be less and the government also promised to relaunch Doel.” But according to Creve, nothing happened. Hence the current wait-and-see attitude.
“We have been fighting David against Goliath for over 20 years,” said Creve. “Our campaigns started in 1997. The action group was called Doel 2020. It still seemed a long way off. Who would have thought we were going to act again in 2021?”
Creve himself lives five kilometers from Doel, in a place which, until a few years ago, was also destined to disappear for the port. “The port plans not only have an effect on Doel, but also on the immediate surroundings. Many more residents are affected than people realize.
“ A lot of unnecessary damage ”
Most people left 20 years ago, says Creve. “For a lot of people it’s a turn of the page. Most don’t think about going back, only some consider it. But Doel will never be the village it once was.”
The irony is that the 2016 decision made it clear afterwards that people should not have left. “A lot of unnecessary damage has been done.”
The question now is to what extent this damage can be repaired. According to Creve, the region has a lot of potential. “There is an architectural heritage. There are houses whose structures are still in order, even if they have been damaged. And there is an interest of people to come and live there. luck.”
‘No noise problem’
According to Creve, port noise shouldn’t be a problem. In Doel you can see the big ships passing by, but there is a huge ‘quality of life buffer’.
“It’s a 24-meter-high dike,” explains Creve. “This makes Doel a relatively quiet place. I think a lot of the villages in Flanders are not as quiet as Doel. It is also on the river, which also gives the village an added charm.”
The study that the Flemish government is currently commissioning should show how great this potential really is. Always Creve is on his guard. “It is now up to a new minister with the intention of ending all this misery and finding a solution. But the story is not yet over.”