COLAND Case Study 2020 - Middelkerke

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Area Middelkerke
Place Middelkerke, West-Flanders
Country Belgium
Topics Ecosystem changes, Climate Change, public awareness, coastal infrastructure
Author(s) Mana Taheri, Anna Maria Järvsalu, Maziar Bisheban


  • Why do you think this case is relevant? What is your hypothesis considering the landscape challenges?

This case is relevant because it is a seasonal tourist attraction and it has three strongly distinctive landscape patterns- semi-natural wide coastline, and artificial urban and agricultural patterns, which are affected because of people. Artificiality and existence of man brings out challenges in biodiversity, soils, water, and marine environment. The coast is most sensitive to floods, erosion, and eutrophication.

Location and scope

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A Landscape System Analysis

A.1 Landscape layers and their system context

Geomorphology, landscape units and coastal typology

  • The terrain forming the coat of Belgium dates back from the Holocene epoch (1.7 thousand years ago) from the Quaternary era. Due to the old age of the geological foundation and the proximity to the North Sea, most of the terrain is now underwater.

This problem was handled by the Belgium state by creating new arificial areas.

Land use

In Middelkerke the most dominant land use structures are agricultural land, urban fabrics, dunes on East and West side of the sub-municipality, and closed camping grounds around the town. In the case of increasing the urban structure, there is a possibility for agricultural land to decrease. Driving forces are tourism growth and changes in local structure. For example if there are enough possibilities for people to live there permanently (job, education facilities, etc), then probably the urban structure will decrease. The most likely and fastest changes will occur in agricultural land. Because of the urban structure increase and human hand, the dunes near the coast could be in danger.

Green/blue infrastructure

What are the major potential elements of a green/blue infrastructure network? Are these likely to change/disappear? Why is that?

  • Green area
  • Blue area
  • Natural area
  • Normandpark
  • Agricultural field
  • Vijver Normandpark

One of the most dominant green/blue infrastructures at Middlekerke can be found along the coastline. The Middlekerke s beach line is the longest in Belgium. It contains sand beaches. Residents and tourists can experience nature in this way. There are a Hiking trail from Middelkerke-Westende and Statues of cartoon characters and Cinema on the beach. It may affect the infrastructures of this green and blue and it might damage the nature. Tides and storms can affect also. Normandpark is A green infrastructure in the center of Middelkerke. It is located near the beach. The pond of Normandpark was redone in a sustainable way. This area is really comfortable for enjoying the nature in the center of Middlekerke.In addition, there are lots of agricultural fields that can be considered as green infrastructure.Most of the agricultural field in Belgium is divided between barley, corn, wheat, potatoes, and vegetables and fruits and there are some areas for breeding animals.

Actors and stakeholders

  • Draw a stakeholder and/or power map: Who is affected highly but with low power? Who has high power but is not affected?

The main actors are the Middelkerke Municipality and the West Flanders Authorities, but also the business owners, the investors, the community and tourists. Each of these actors and stakeholders has a higher or lower impact on the changes that affect Middelkerke and a higher or lower interest in what happens to the city.

Sacred spaces and heritage

Which places/elements hold cultural value and to whom?

Built environment

Middelkerke is rich by its architectural heritage. Beautiful street views have characterized the town from the 19th century. Although the town has modernized you can see the hints of the city's historic architectural value through the Townhall, Traction station, Saint Theresa Chapel and through hotels, villas and even garage. The second most important value of the place is the train connection between Knokke and De Panne. That's the reason why seaside tourism in the area has been popular since World War I. These values are important to the citizens and tourists by its beauty and formed network.

Natural environment

In Middelkerke there are three most important nature reserves- Warandeduinen, Puidebroeken, and Raversyde nature park. If Puidebroeken is important for birds, frogs, insects, and plants then Warandeduinen and Raversyde hold extra value for people's health and to the environment.

Symbols of Middelkerke, artefacts

In between the coast of Middelkerke to Westende-Bad there are 15 bronze statues of cartoon characters and also five Beaufort monuments such as two horns (I Can Hear It) and excavator (Caterpillar 5bis), etc. These sculptures add symbolic meaning to Middelkerke's coast and town, and invites visitors to see them.

Visual appearance and landscape narrative

  • Which elements are essential for the landscape character?

In Middelkerke, the coast and the sea play a central role. It contains sand beaches of about nine kilometers long which are connected by a boulevard and have characteristic features with its urban area and agricultural land behind. [17] [18]

  • Has the landscape been painted or otherwise depicted, when and whom? Which elements are essential?

Many painters illustrated the interesting coastal landscape the colorful sea, and the nice urban view. Pierre Stefani (France, born 1938) depicted where people are enjoying in the summertime and where beach shows low sea tide. Claude Hardenne (France- 1946) depicted the colorful sea at the age of 16. [19][20]

  • Which narratives exist? Who has written about this landscape or depicted it in some way?

The story of Middelkerke: Middelkerke seaside town equipped with Hotels, apartments, villas, cafes, restaurants, and beaches, as well as situated in dunes and polders. The polders perfectly suit for walks or bike and skeeters tour through an overwhelming landscape. Beach facilities and public facilities like tram are also located within the coastal area. [21] The first reference of Middelkerke is found in 1218. Before 1867 it mainly was farming settlements. One of the first world images of this area can be found on the map of the first world war by the war office and also a picture that shows the first world war in 1914 to 1918 that is taken by Chronicle. [22]

Whether to see the street view about 100 years ago and now you can see how drastically the image of the city has changed. Diverse architecture has been changed to a modern gray cubic wall, where nothing distinct.

A.2 Summary of your landscape system analysis and your development targets

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being; Good health and well-being are always important for inhabitants. Because of the population growth and tourism, it is necessary to keep under control the social wealth and economy, to deal with an aging society and keep it in balance with modern worldviews. Also, more free tourism could bring problems to deal with, like diseases, cultural and safety issues, etc.

Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities (Bike, walk or use public transportation); Although in Middelkerke there is a good pedestrian, bike and public transportation network near the coast it is important to keep them maintained and deal with infrastructure consciously taking in consideration that in Middelkerke the season lasts only 2-3 months.

Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production (recycled paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum); Due to the season lasts only 2-3 months in a year it is good to have sustainable waste development in the season and off the season. Production of single-use waste and overproduction are the things to work with.

Goal 13: Climate action; Cause the Climate Change and Global Warming is a well-known issue in all over the world, it affects also Belgium. It has to been taken into consideration that the coastal area and the town probably will be affected by floods, strong storms and winds and other changes in climate. The seasons could also be changing every year, longer autumn and spring and shorter summer and winter, etc.

Goal 14: Life Below Water; Because of agricultural chemicals, the state of water bodies is affected. Strong rains could cause eutrophication in ditches and rivers and that causes water quality to fall in connected waterbodies.

Goal 15: Life on Land; Because of the dense urban and agricultural area, the diversity of ecology is at risk. It is important to support existing biodiversity and create opportunities with greeneries to increase it.

  • What is your hypothesis for this landscape?

Middelkerke is a dynamic town because of tourism. Tourism growth will affect the ecosystem because more tourism means more facilities and capacity for tourism attractions. To ensure the capacity the town needs more energy for production. More production increases the artificiality in the coast and agricultural land, and creating new and modern will lose the importance of history.

  • Visualise your hypothesis with one graphic/pict
  • Are there any existing initiatives taking action in this landscape? Do you have a critical perspective on that?

In the Middelkerke case is that they are not interested in keeping the nature and heritage of attraction for people. Instead, they want to keep their economy with seasonal events like Comic festival, market, and occasional music festivals. It causes seasonal overproduction and pollution which will change the environment and culture.

A.3 Theory reflection

Due to the Belgian National Adaptation Plan 2017-2020, the effect of climate change was taken into consideration. Because the tourism is a very important factor in this area and also the agricultural land takes a huge space among the sub-municipality it is important to make plans facing the threats of a hotter climate, increased seasonality of precipitation, changes in seasonality, extreme events like thunderstorms or heavy rains, the sea level rise, and increase of the heat islands. Furthermore, how they can reduce the economic risk of these changes. In conclusion, Belgium is looking at an adaptation program that seeks to assess vulnerability to climate change and improve communications in the country.

The International Guidelines on Urban and Territorial Planning was given inspiration for what should be done at the National level to promote sustainable urbanization. Due to important aspects like current residents, possibly increasing future residents, economic growth and environmental protection it is necessary to sustain a balanced system in cities and even in sub-municipality like Middelkerke.

The European policy document Integrated Coastal Management focused on similar aspects. It is important to work with the coast with an ‘’ecosystem-based approach’’, facing the risks of flooding, erosion, sea-level rise and extreme weather events caused by climate change, taking into consideration all from coastal development to habitat questions. Because of the welfare of the population and the economic viability of many of the jobs available in coastal areas depends on the environmental status of these areas and their relevance to activities such as nature conservation, aquaculture, fisheries, agriculture, industry, offshore wind energy, beach, transportation, tourism, infrastructure development.

A.4 References

Sacred spaces and heritage

Agency for Heritage Heritage 2020: Townhall of Middelkerke [online] (19-02-2020)

T.T.O.-Noordzee vzw [online] (19-02-2020)

Agency for Heritage Heritage 2020: Tramway [online] (19-02-2020)

Agency for Heritage Heritage 2020: Traction Station [online] (19-02-2020)

Agency for Cultural Heritage 2020: Sint-Theresiakapel [online] (19-02-2020)

Openchurches: Sint-Theresia [online] (19-02-2020)

Agency for Heritage Heritage 2020: Hotel Continental [online] (02-02-2020)

Agency for Heritage Heritage 2020: Heritage objects in Middlekerke [online] (02-02-2020)

Protected Planet: Warandeduinen in Belgium [online] (02-20-2020)

Natuurpunt: Warandeduinen [online] (02-20-2020)

Middelkerke: Warandeduinen [online] (02-20-2020)

Protected Planet: Puidebroeken [online] (02-20-2020)

Natuurpunt: Puidebroeken [online] (02-20-2020)

Westende: Raversyde Nature Park [online] (02-20-2020)

Middelkerke: Tourism-comics [online] (02-20-2020)

The Belgian Coast: Beaufort gems in Middelkerke-Westende [online] (02-20-2020)

Visual appearance and landscape narrative

Middelkerke, family seaside resort [online] (19-02-2020)

Artistic spots in Middelkerke [online] (19-02-2020)

First World War map of Ostende [online] (19-02-2020)

Middelkerke, la digue et la plage à marée basse [online] (19-02-2020)

Claude Hardenne - "T'as voulu voir Honfleur" [online] (19-02-2020)

Phase B: Landscape Evaluation and Assessment

B.1 Assessment Strategy

The goals were to find out how to increase good health and well being, contain sustainable sub-municipality and promote responsible consumption and production going towards climate action, and at the same time protect life below water and on land. From the inspiration of green infrastructure and movement towards climate action, we found useful to analyze and map overall connection with Belgium, site population, transportation and connections, cycling and hiking networks, green infrastructure, flooding and touristic and local use of recreation. Each topic was analyzed given values or bringing out the crucial patterns and from that were found risks and potentials.

B.2 Mapping

B.3 Problem definition and priority setting


  • Potential for well-designed road infrastructure for all the users
  • Potential for local public transportation
  • Potential for traffic calming
  • Potential for hiking and cycling roads
  • Potential for diverse street vegetation
  • Potential for flood protection
  • Potential for forests
  • A potential area for leisure activities


  • Risk of traffic jams and heavy traffic
  • Risk of high water level
  • Risk of temporal flooding in case of extreme storms (coastal area)
  • Risk of overcrowding

+ Risks of noise and air pollution (caused by traffic and overcrowding)

Priorities: street infrastructure and connections, flooding, lack of diverse vegetation

B.4 Theory reflection

For our assessment, we chose to analyze the Green Infrastructure which gives an insight into why green infrastructure is a crucial element in a healthy city. Not only do they power the diversity of life with them, but they also provide valuable, economically important goods and services such as clean water and air, pollination, carbon storage, etc. They also have a central role going against climate change impacts and protecting us against floods and other environmental disasters.

Unfortunately, major land-use activities such as housing, agriculture, and transportation have taken a big part in the diverse ecosystem in Middelkerke. That’s why we used Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) which is used in transportation, green infrastructure, human factors and in addition flooding analysis. Each character was given a value, whether they were good or could be improved, and from that were given an evaluation of which areas are in risk and which have potential.

Also, we chose to use Tourism Map which may be an ally or a threat to conservation. The expansion and diversification of tourism had an increasing environmental impact on protected ecosystems. Therefore, it is important to assess and anticipate the potential impacts of tourism on Natural Protected Areas, to articulate the public use of NPA and their conservation. The Tourism Impact Assessment is a methodology for evaluating the environmental impacts associated with tourism.

Limitations encountered

The challenge with finding content was that most of the articles that could be of primary help were in the Dutch language, which was not a time-efficient or reliable translation. Sometimes we would go to fake sites that did not provide the right information and also visiting the site could even more effective.

B.5 References

  • European Commission. Building a Green Infrastructure for Europe. Publication, 2013.
  • LCA (Landscape Character Assessment)

Phase C – Strategy and Master Plan

C.1 Goal Setting

Vision 2040: Biking and hiking friendly community with connected green corridors and flood prevention.

Strategic planning objectives:

1. To provide a sustainable green environment to improve air quality (get fresh air, reduce pollution, etc) and enhance biodiversity

2. To provide recreational transport solutions and green space accessibility to increase and promote a healthier lifestyle and sustainable development of the city reducing the climate change impact. Also to provide recreational possibilities to balance the tourism to decrease the overuse of the urban area and the beach

3. To prevent flooding and water level rise for long life preservation of the coastal town increasing the surface run-off, absorption and slow down the water flow

After analyzing the site we chose out of the primal six goals four to work on: goal 3 Good Health and Well-being, goal 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities, goal 13 Climate Action and goal 15 Life on Land. Objective one, to provide a sustainable green environment and enhance biodiversity connects with all of the goals. Keeping the environment clean and providing more greenery will increase the well-being and life on land and moves towards a sustainable community preparing for climate actions as greenery providing water and storm management. The second objective, to provide recreational moving solutions and accessibility to increase and promote healthier lifestyles connecting most with goals 3, 11 and 15. Increasing safeness in walking and cycling roads and offering car alternative solutions might help to achieve a cleaner and healthier environment in Middelkerke. The third objective, to prevent flooding and water level rise connects mostly with goals 11 and 13 for the long life preservation of the coastal town. Also, sub connects with goals 3 and 15 providing prevention with greeneries. In all objectives, all the stakeholders are involved.

SWOT summary

  • Strengths are, valuable existing green areas and potential space for them. Also, existing road basis, transportation links, and distances between the area. Also important are the existing dunes and flood preventions in the sub municipality.
  • Weaknesses are the monocultural vegetation and lack of diversity of green areas. Also, connection lacks of the cycle and hiking roads, the unsafeness of some roads and dense car usage. Furthermore, the coastal location and lack of flood defense will make the area weaker.
  • Opportunities could be stakeholder's acceptance and co-work. Also, new technologies create better solutions for design.
  • Threats could be unexpected climate events and features. Also, the viral Coronavirus economic crisis could influence the planning process.

C.2 Spatial Strategy and Transect

Our vision aims toward green infrastructure, street, and network intervention and flooding prevention. Because Middelkerke is heavily relying on tourism and it has main traffic in the center. The main aim of the project is to decrease traffic and make the municipality cycle and walk-friendly. The land occupied by car parking is wasted, not usable as city space. Parking in front of the buildings distracts accessibility and also it can be dangerous for cycling if bike lines are between car lines and parking. Also, the cycle and hike networks are improved and the approaching idea was quite clear that with designing big loops and some shortcuts, bikers can access many areas especially in agriculture land and other municipalities. Furthermore, with dunes and vegetation sudden floods have been thought through, that the impact would be smaller, that is mainly can affect the coastal area.

C.3 From Theory of Change to Implementation

For implementing vision there are three basic categories of actors: regulators, actors, and influencers. From the governance model, the regulators are mainly state governments with who the plans need to be introduced and accepted. Basic local action goes between local government, developers and investors. Developers and local government provide specialists to work with the case, and the main funding comes from investors, municipality, state, and even the European Union can support global solutions. Of course, the same important actors are the influencers- local and other stakeholders and tourists who the planning concerns.

Mainly the vision is to make soft changes using as many local resources as possible and modifying the existing like roads, streets, and the coast.

The vision could be completed in 20 years from 2020-2040. Beneath is visible planning process model.

C.4 References

  • give a full list of the references you have used for this section

D. Process Reflection

  • Good teamwork in EMÜ
  • Co-work with Romanians didn’t work


  • Group size decreased from 6 to 3 after part A
  • No sense of the site in real
  • Language/ wording
  • Lack of data (knowledge where to find Belgium data)
  • COVID-19

The co-work in EMU worked very well. We would say that the different cultures didn't affect the work very much. The outcomes of our study were understandable and achievable for everybody. In the beginning, working with Romanians didn't work so fluently. It was challenging to exchange information and work together in such a distance. After part A we worked as a group of three. The main limitation was the language and wording issues, not so fluent English and also not knowing Dutch, French, and German made research difficult. Of course, Coronavirus affected a bit of the work. First we couldn't visit the site, and sense the site in real. Also, we couldn't meet any more and work face to face discussing problems while the process. From each other, we learned how to co-work more efficiently in a team of three.