ESPO Award 2023: let us present the shortlisted projects: North Sea Port
Under the theme “Nature restoration projects in ports benefitting the local community”, the ESPO Award 2023 will go to the port managing body which has developed innovative ways to develop these new roles and combine port development with successfully protecting and restoring nature in and around the port area to the benefit of the citizens and local community. The winning project will be a project which can clearly demonstrate how nature protection and restoration efforts can be successfully combined with port development projects.
The four projects that are shortlisted for this year’s Award are the projects of Port of Cartagena (Spain), Guadeloupe Port Caraïbes (France), North Sea Port (Belgium- Netherlands) and Port of Vigo (Spain).
ESPO is proud to present the shortlisted projects before the winner is announced during the traditional ESPO Award Ceremony and Dinner taking place on 7 November at the Art and History Museum in the Cinquantenaire in Brussels. The ESPO award ceremony will be celebrated together with the 30th anniversary of ESPO. Find out more about the project of North Sea Port.
Could you briefly describe your project?
The ‘Interconnected Areas of Ghent Canal Zone and Moervaart Valley’ project comprises the development of the areas between the industrial port and the residential areas in the Ghent Canal Zone (the Flemish area of North Sea Port). A multifunctional approach was adopted in the design of this area, making it much more than just a buffer between the port and residential areas. The area is a unique place in which nature development and restoration are prominent. By working together with nature and environmental experts, nature development and restoration were emphasised, and biodiversity in the areas was improved. Going far beyond the Birds and Habitats Directive, there is room for recreation, small-scale agriculture, fishing, water management, cultural heritage, and archaeology whilst creating public support for the port’s commercial developments.. The interconnected areas consist of 16 sub-areas and cover a total of approximately 730 hectares. The Moervaart Valley comprises about 3,000 hectares. As part of North Sea Port’s License to Operate programme, this fulfils corporate social responsibility by integrating the port area with the immediately adjacent residential and living environment in a high-quality manner.
How has your project contributed to the successful protection and restoration of nature in and around the port area to benefit the citizens and local community? Could you tell us more? How does your project contribute to the societal integration of the port?
These areas contribute to nature development, nature restoration, and biodiversity, as well as to the quality of the living environment and the well-being of the port’s employees. Using participation processes, local residents have been directly involved in the design of the areas and the sequence in which the areas were developed. Their ,needs and wishes were taken in account, and they were able to influence the improvement of the quality of their living environment. They have not only contributed to the area design, but they also remain closely involved, including in the management and maintenance of the area. The website of the Ghent Canal Zone project includes an environmental hotline that anyone can access 24/7 concerning reports, complaints, and suggestions. Events are frequently organised for stakeholders to meet each other. Such events include walking tours, nature explorations, and the ‘Night of Darkness’.
There is a cycle map with a recreational cycle route through the area. The area has beautiful viewpoints where visitors can experience the connection between nature and port. They increase public support for the port and contribute to a positive image of the North Sea Port area. Walking routes from business parks and residential areas through nature reserves are actively used by employees and local residents. They strengthen the connection between the port and the living environment and contribute to the vitality of employees and local residents. The cycle paths (75 km in total) sustainably reduce the distance between residential areas and industry. Employees of North Sea Port and the companies in the port frequently use these paths to commute to work. A cross-border connection to the cycling network in the Netherlands will soon be realised. The firewater basins in the port area are landscaped and designed to form an important foraging and resting area for protected bird species as described above. An orchard has been planted in one of the areas where local residents are allowed to pick fruit. Feedback from local residents indicates that the areas have a positive impact on the quality of their living environment and their appreciation of, and positive association with, the (development of the) port and its industry.
Could you describe the original and innovative character of your project?
Several elements are contributing to it:
• Multifunctional buffer area: In the project, residential areas, forest, nature, and industry are woven into a single landscape. Different landscapes flow into each other, rather than creating a strict separation between the industrial landscape, nature areas, and residential areas, and hence the project successfully connects them.
• Project by all stakeholders: This extraordinary way of connecting industry, nature, and housing has come about thanks to successful use of bottom-up participation of all stakeholders: local residents, nature organisations, farms, industry, authorities, and ports.
• Landscape fund: Having companies voluntarily co-finance a landscape fund to achieve better landscaping of their business zones has not yet occurred elsewhere.
• Stakeholders remain involved: Management and maintenance of the areas by an independent organisation proved to be a prerequisite for success on behalf of all partners. Residents and other stakeholders remain closely involved in the maintenance and further management of the areas.
Why do you think your project deserves to win the ESPO Award 2023?
We are convinced that our project is a successful and proven example of nature conservation and nature restoration in and around our port area. The success of our project lies mainly in the fact that we designed and carried out the project in close collaboration with local residents but also with all other stakeholders in our port area. The feedback from local residents provides objective evidence of the success of our project. They experience that the areas have a positive impact on the quality of their living environment and their appreciation of, and positive association with, the port and its industry.
The project is important for North Sea Port, its license-to-operate strategy and our motto: Together Smarter. North Sea Port is all about society, not against one another, but with one another: local residents, authorities, and companies, with North Sea Port acting as a connector. The continuous search for a better balance between industrial and logistics business development and nature is also part of North Sea Port’s strategy. This project is living proof that North Sea Port takes this strategy seriously and translates it successfully and close collaboration with the local community into action. Hopefully we will inspire other ports with our approach. Therefore, our project deserves the ESPO Award 2023.