COLAND Case Study 2020 - Ostend

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Area Workgroup 7: Ostend
Place De Panne
Country Belgium
Topics Coastal Line Study, Understanding Coastal Landscapes, Evaluation and Assessment for Coastal Landscapes Integrated Planning and Design for Coastal Landscape
Author(s) Chismorie Almond Edgar David, Delia Laura Maria, Gonțilă Larisa-Cristina, Neculai Raluca-Elena, Trifan Loredana-Andreea, Pătrășcu Paula Silvia, Popa Maria-Andreea
Ostend area boxpicture.jpg


Keywords: urban area, diversity, historical background, strategic position, mix between old and new, area as a palimpsest

Ostend area was very important for the strategic position on the North Sea coast, having a complex history and evolution regarding all the layers of its system in the last centuries, becoming now an important urban pole nearby the coast. The erosion of the coast, heavy rainfall, storms and rising sea level due to climate change are the main challenges for the area, making it vulnerable. Moreover, the tourism is not controlled, and the area can soon be on the list of over-touristed cities.

The study case is structured in three steps: landscape system analysis (understand the coastal landscape and its layers that make a complex system), landscape evaluation and assessment (critically understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats leading to a diagnostic of the area) and finally strategy and master plan, a vision, a proposal, an integrated planning and design for coastal landscapes (projects and directions of intervention to protect and highlight the main characteristics of the zone, while looking to ameliorate the problems).

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 geomorphology evolution starts with the Ostend valley which was formed in the course of the Saale ice age, when the North Sea was a dry land crossed by large rivers that deposited sediments in the valleys. During the warmer Eemian interglacial period, the sea level rose and the Ostend valley was transformed into an estuarine area, influenced by tides. Around 7000 BC the sea level stabilized and a dune barrier was formed, which prevented the land from frequent flooding. During the Roman era the sea was located only a few kilometers offshore from today`s coastline, the sandy dunes made a stronger border between the sea and a marsh area crossed by many creeks and tidal gullies. During the Middle Ages, tidal channels and creeks formed many islands, the medieval town of Ostend was part of Testerep island, which was separated from the mainland by the tidal channel called the “Tersterep gully’’. Later in the medieval times, human impact became more present in the evolution of the landscape, people were building dikes in order to protect themselves from flooding. The shoreline retreated over 1 km and in the 16th century the old town of Oostende was drowned almost completely, after this point the present coastline was more or less reached.

The landscape is influenced by the biggest urban area of Belgian coast - the city of Ostend which is developed above a land corridor with higher altitude, that separate the North Sea from the low altitude inland plains which sometimes are below the sea level. A common landscape unit for these corridors are the dunes and the most important of them here, are the Dunes of Bredene. From the beginning of the 17th century dates the 24.6km long Bruges - Ostend Canal which connects the city of Bruges with the North Sea and forms on the intersection a small estuary.

Also an important unit is Spuikom, an artificial pond used as a drainage basin built in order to keep the harbor channel sufficiently deep. After the First World War the drainage system was destroyed and never repaired again.

The Coastal typology is a tidal system, the coast is stabilized by groins, distributed on intervals ranging from 300m to 400m across the beaches.

Land use

Located in the province of West Flanders, Belgium, Ostend is the largest city of the Belgian coast. It has a diverse range of population of approximate 70,000, of which 20% are aged 65 and over (dates from 2019). Historically, it has been under the domination of various empires due to it’s strategic position on the North Sea and served as a major German submarine base or a coastal fortress in both World Wars.

In the present, based on its position on the North Sea, Ostend uses its wave and offshore wind potential to produce renewable energy.

In regard to connectivity and transport, Ostend benefits of good accessibility both nationally and internationally. It is well connected to Bruxelles, the rest of the country and internationally through various national roads, railway and flights as it comprises a big rail station and an international airport - Oostend - Bruges.

The city has a structured system of activities comprising various seaside related activities (tourism and leisure, industrial, transport - general cargo, ferry port, etc) and cultural activities for locals.

Green/blue infrastructure

Green/blue infrastructure network is a natural and semi-natural network that provides services to humans and since early Middle Ages, Ostende was a small village built on the east-end of the island between the North Sea and a beace lake where the main source of income for the citizens was fishing.The complex blue infrastructure it’s the most important part which keeps the city alive so the grey and green/blue parts of this city have to corelate and co-exist with eachother.

The city is built according to the watercourse and we can observe the respect for nature through the main nature attractions; Leopold Park; Maria Hendricka Park;Green Bridge science Park; North Sea Aquarium and of course the principal Plage d’Ostende and the ‚collector’ lake Spuikom. This area is characterized by equable climates with few extremes of temperature and ample precipitation in all months. It is located poleward of the Mediterranean climate region on the western sides of the continents, between 35° and 60° N and S latitude. Because the main animals found in the area are fish (eg. Garfish; Brill; Herring; Flounder) there is a big population and diversity of costal-birds such as Great cormorant; Sandwich tern; Black-headed Gull; Grebes and in the parks we can find Mute swan or Black swan. If we are lucky we cand also see some of the marin mammals like White-beaked dolphins and Seals.

Actors and stakeholders

An important category of stakeholders represents the administration sphere, the municipality and different organizations, having a high level of interest and moderate means of action. The main stakeholder with the highest interest and power in the area is the Flemish agency for Maritime Services and Coast, given the importance and role of the Ostend as a key component in the costal system. A direct relationship is formed with the local interested parts. The residents, fishermen, tourists, investors and business owners are considered playing a key role at local scale and having a crucial part in the eco-social and environmental situation of the area. Between all the stakeholders there is a relationship of codependency, influencing one another, improving and promoting the right kind of development for the city.

Sacred spaces and heritage

In translation, the city of Ostend means East –End (oost - einde). Ostend was a small fishing village of about 3,000 inhabitants, founded five hundred years ago. The village rose to the status of "town" around 1265, when the inhabitants were allowed to hold a market and to build a market hall. The strategic position on the North Sea coast had major advantages for Ostend as a military port and aharbour. The town was frequently taken, ravaged, ransacked and destroyed by conquering armies. The town was frequently taken, ravaged, ransacked and destroyed by conquering armies. After the memorable siege, during the Eighty Years' War and the Anglo–Spanish War, Ostend was turned into a harbour, provided an important alternative exit to the sea, in the 1722, and today this city is the largest coastal city of Belgium.

Ostend is a city with a rich history, with military, maritime and cultural heritage.

  • Ostend’s Raversyde neighborhood has been left with one of the best preserved remnants of the immense German Second World War coastal defense, the Atlantic Wall, an extensive system of coastal defence and fortifications built by Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1944, along the coast of continental Europe and Scandinavia. This structure is made up of two kilometers of tunnels and trenches, 60 bunkers, as well as observation posts and gun positions.
  • Sint-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk (Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul), the main church of Ostend, is a Roman Catholic Neo-Gothic church. It is built on the ashes of a previous church that occupied the site. King Leopold II supported the plan to build a new one. Construction started in 1899 and was completed and consecrated by Bishop Waffelaert on August 31, 1908.
  • In 18th century, Napoleon feared an attack from England, and therefore build an impressive fort in the dunes in 1811. The attack never happened, but in both world wars the fort serves it purpose for artillery used by the German army. After it became a museum and now it is a children's playground.
  • The lost fishing settlement of Walraversijde is one of the most important archeological sites in Flanders with four reconstructed fishermen’s dwellings.

Visual appearance and landscape narrative

The characteristics of the land were modeled by nature and men, the costal landscape remained an iconic part of the setting, whilst the city changed facing numerous hardships such as war. The perception of the city has been contoured during its entire evolution resulting in a distinctive image. The town interweaves the sea landscape with the urban development without losing its identity as a key harboring point. An important aspect of Ostend all throughout history is the culture and personalities it hosted as a place of creation when it was a fashionable outing for royalty and aristocracy. Among the residents that captured the essence and were inspired by the city were the painters James Ensor, Gustaaf Sorel, Roger Remaut, the writer Karel Jonckheere and musician Marvin Gaye.

In return, the city was immortalize in paintings, portraying the sea and the beauty of life, writings, depicting the hardships of World War I and World War II, and in later years in movies or documentaries. The most illustrated subjects are the costal landscape, the sea, the harbor, the beach and the promenade along the shore. In the passing of time, all this elements represent the history of the place and combined create the social identity on which the city developed and is identifiable on local and global scale. Ostend is well known for artists under the name “Ensors” town, because of the renowned painter James Ensor. A beautiful description of the essence of this city is “…Ostend also conjures up memories of bursts of energy, and intensity and strength, of a new beginning with the force of a catapult…”, found in the book Summer Before the Dark: Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth, Ostend 1936 by Volker Weidermann.

A.2 Summary of you landscape system analysis and your development Targets

For system analysis of the area of Ostend, a DPSIR Framework is used. The development of a tertiary service economy and other related sectors such as tourism development and residential development and the population growth, due to the transformation of Ostende- a fisher village into a harbour and now also as a seaside reasort are the major drivers forces.

The main pressure is recognized as a human pressure: construction of coastal infrastructures due to Ostend’s strategic position, growth of city of Ostend, the activities such as motor boarding, fishing, diving and exploitation of land and the present rate of gas emission and climate changes. Coastal urbanization, artificialisation of the coast and soil, the rise in the level of the North Sea are causes of the present state: change in the coastal landscape, which represent a threat of the natural and build heritage.

The spatial impacts of the coastal landscape are inequalities in development, destruction of heritage and ecosystem disturbance which threathen the biodiversity and the life of the residents of Ostend. Despide that fact, measures to mitigate or correct these dysfunctions observed exists: environmental policies and land-use policies and consistent actions such as raising various beaches, protecting the entrances of the ports and building walls designed to break the force of the waves. For this, the cooperation of stakeholders is needed: involvement of residents, organisations, municipality, agencies and investors.

At the current state fragmentation of landscapes and ecosystems, climate changes and incoherent development are leading the area to lose of environmental and cultural heritage, the rising of the sea level, biodiversity loss, acceleration of the urbanization phenomenon and also reduced quality life, safety for locals in Ostend and satisfaction of tourists.

Development targets are oriented towards protecting the ecosystem, reducing the environmental impact of human activities, preserving the coastal landscape, protecting the heritage , coherent future development and improving Ostend’s image and quality of life of residents and tourists. Involving the people, both as individuals and as groups in preserving the coastal landscape, increasing awareness and sustained actions of stakeholders are essential in achieving these targets.

A.3 Theory reflection

  • National document

Belgian National Adaptation Plan 2017 - 2020

The National Climate Committe members of the federal and regional (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels) gouvernments built this plan in order to cover all the areas influenced by climate change. Extensive links between different policy areas and thei adaptation efforts will lead to synergies and could further avoid maladaption, finally leading to a coherent adaptation policy.

Ostend area, due to the coastal landscape and the vulnerability to climate change needs to have a plan to adapt to this changes: to build capacity and anticipate and mitigate risks and maximize the potential benefits of climate change. The 6th (evaluate the impact of climate change on the security of the energy supply and the energy transport and distribution infrastructures) and 7th (evaluation of the socio-economic impacts of change in Belgium) measure of this document have a direct influence on the study area.

  • European document

European Commission Marine Strategy Framework Directive

The aim of “Marine Strategy Framework Directive” is to protect more effectively the marine environment across Europe and to achieve GES (Good Environmental Status) of the EU’s marine waters by 2020 and to protect the resource base upon which marine-related economic and social activities depend. This is the first EU instrument related to this topic.

Climate change is affecting the marine environment and will continue to modify the layers of the maritime coastal landscape, flora and fauna. Marine strategies in some coastal areas (including Ostend) will need to identify ways of adapting to the effects of global warning and to reduce the vulnerability.

  • Intenational document

UN HABITAT Guiding Principles for City Climate Action Planning

The Guiding Principles for City Climate Action Planning reviews typical steps in the city level climate action planning process in light of a proposed set of globally applicable principles (city climate action planning should be: ambitious, inclusive, fair, comprehensive and integrated, relevant, actionable, evidence-based, transparent and verifiable).

The Guiding Principles are aimed primarily at city-level actors (local officials, local planners, local stakeholders), in order to guide and help the cities and their supporting partners in their efforts to tackle the climate challenge in the coherent way.

A.4 References, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;

source, date 20.02.2020;

J.E Kaufmann,The Atlantic Wall: History and Guide, 2012;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;,date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;

V. Weidermann, Summer Before the Dark: Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth, Ostend 1936, 2016, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;, date 20.02.2020;

Phase B: Landscape Evaluation and Assessment

B.1 Assessment Strategy

An environment full of diversity such as Ostend region has to propose strategies based on environment conservation, development and reduction of the harmful factors.

  • 1. Environment and landscape:

Environment conservation and coastal landscape consolidation

  • 2. Economy and tourism:

Protect and improve the specific local activities, encourage economy and tourism with a better inland connectivity

  • 3. Social balance:

Creating a well balanced social environment between the residents and the tourists.

For environment and landscape we have to conserve the coastal landscape which is very complex. In this direction the main interventions are: slowing down the erosion of the coast caused by the powerful waves and to protect the lowlands from sea level rise.

For the economy there are two important sources of income: industry and tourism, these two sources should be in a balanced system. Roads, streets, rails, greenways and marine transport, should facilitate a better accessibility. Also, it`s important to help the specific local activities such as fisheries and aquacultures.

Social balance had to have a sensitive intervention. Our beneficiaries are the residents and the tourists, two categories with two different sets of needs and for that we have to control the coastal urbanizations and the quality of living.

B.2 Mapping

B.3 Problem definition and priority setting

  • The main findings to be noted are from both natural and anthropic spheres influencing one another. The natural aspect of the problem is the fragile coastline that consists in a number of interdependent factors. An issue that has been known about for years is the constant erosion of the coast, problem caused by natural processes such as wind, waves, storms and also by human activity at local and global scale. All these factors combined create a destructive medium affecting the integrity of the costal landscape that is sensitive to change, for instance the rising sea level, climate change, urbanization. Being in a close connection with the city and its system, the coastline has the power to influence the structure within, namely tourism, economics, and social aspects. Given the vocation of the city throughout history as a tourist destination, Ostend is facing an urbanization process due to its popularity, threatening the costal landscape and the overall image. The holiday culture, vacantion houses developments, are affecting the costal landscape with its approach with poor quality leisure infrastructure that creates a monotonous seascape. Besides tourism, the other key element of Ostend’s economy is the harbor activity and the productive area situated in close proximity. Both aspects, natural and economic, have an impact on the social level, creating unbalance social life for the residents and the tourists. Because of the over-tourism, during the summer months Ostend and its residents are confronting with big city problems despite being a small town, issues dealing with mobility, pollution and wildlife.
  • The main priority is regarding the natural environment, where it is necessary to develop an investing plan dealing with the protection of the coast and improving the erosion process and conservation of the beaches. As important are the next set of priorities concerning the economic and social aspects, prioritizing a sustainable mobility system for both residents and tourists but also for the freight transport. Another aspect to be taken into consideration is the planning between the needs of the inhabitants in relation with the necessary services, creating a stronger bond linking the economic and social fields.

B.4 Theory reflection

Some Futures for the Belgian Coast 2100, a Case Study of Research by Design on Regional Level

With a long term approach (2100) we can anticipate the effects of climate change. This will force the stakeholders to find innovative solutions in order to prepare for scenarios were the sea level will rise for more than 2 meters. The case study came with 4 diverging long term future visions by design and concluded with 2 directions: the first is a platform, a long-term vision for the entire coastal zone and the second is that of realistic pilot projects.

European Landscape Convention

European Lanscape Convention, it’s one of the docoments which protect an ecourage the landscape planning. Document signed in 20.10.2000, Florence it have a big influence for the landscape planning, out standing lanscapes, and also ordinary landscapes. Regarding to this document, all of the european countryes should protect and conserve the landscape by proposing some intern politics. This document has a influence also for the people and the nation itself, because it’s cosideres the lanscape determinate the quality of people’s living. Which in this case, we are speaching about the coastal landscape. Landscape that has 3 major problems as: landscape erosion, the neglecting of the beaches, and the rising sea level.

Management of the belgian coast: Opinions and solutions

Ostend is part of the flanders region in Vest Belgium and is the 9’th biggest city in flanders by population (also the population and tourists increased year after year). The city is only 6 meters above sea level. The economic importance of the sea fisheries and aquaculture sector in Ostend are limited. The port of Oostende is a very important point it is generally agreed that the port of Oostende plays a significant role in the regional economy, also the economy directly influence the communities and how they behave, because the companyes are having a value of 83 million and are employing more and more people some small bussinesses have to suffer. Several companies situated along the harbour start to lose the connection with harbour.

Another problem started with the beginning of the 20th century the Belgian coast have had some problems with the natural enviroment that wasn’t controlled too much Former municipalities, in particular, were held responsible for the current coastal problems. Most respondents were skeptic about the application of recent juridical instruments (e.g. the Dune Decree), the structural plans and their power to protect the remaining natural areas. The root of the problems seems to lie in lack of coordination and communication between different authorities responsible for the coastal zone.


  • Finding “the voice of community”, their attitude regarding the impact of toursim and regarding the impact of chemical industry in their everyday life.
  • Planning in an area highly influenced by climate change and the risk of sea level rise.
  • The language barrier - most of the findings were in dutch, without any explanations in any international language.

B.5 References

Phase C – Strategy and Master Plan

C.1 Goal Setting

The goals resulted from the previous analysis includes all 3 subjects, environment-economy-social, which formed a complex approach of the matter at hand: Sustainable Tourism Development and Social equity.

One of the goals to be achieved is Sustainable Tourism that implies taking into consideration the current and future environment, economics and social aspects and impacts, while addressing the needs of the environment, the industry, the visitors and the host communities. The secondary scope is regarding the need for social balance for both the local communities, local stakeholders and the tourists. This goal is mainly focusing on the stability between different actors such as small business owners, local fishermen, groups of action and residents.

The objectives developed for achieving the goals are consistent with the Sustainable development Goals of The United Nations and are dealing with:

  • Consolidation of the coast preventing further erosion and environment conservation helping to protect natural heritage and biodiversity – supporting SDG 14 LIFE BELOW WATER and SDG 15 LIFE ON LAND
  • Network creation between the historical, cultural and local hot spots via pedestrian and environmental friendly routs – supporting SDG 11 SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES
  • Harbor development and access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets –supporting SDG 8 DECENT WORK AND ECONOMIC GROWTH and SDG 9 INDUSTRY, INNOVATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE

C.2 Spatial Strategy and Transect

C.3 From Theory of Change to Implementation

The process contains three steps.

First step is to consult the public, identify their problems and needs, inform them about the future initiatives and then start planning the strategy and the development of the city.

Second step will contain soft interventions, contouring local hotspots for residents, connect points of attraction by public transportation, creating spaces for fishers.

In the last step, are the hard interventions, consolidation of the coast, expending economic activities in a sustainable way, conserving the environment.

First assets that can be used are the people, workers, professionals, young people and tourists, all of them are representing also the most important resource. The strategy of Ostend is built on the various cultural assets, touristic attractions, abundance of economic activities, especially the ones within port of Ostend.

An important coastal city, with natural resources, the water, the beach, and the view are assets on which the strategy is build. Other resources needed are technological and financial, especially in the last step of the strategy.

In order to achieve the vision, the collective interest, three categories of stakeholders will be involved and develop partnerships: local people, external stakeholders and administration. All participants will bring their part and have their role in the develop of Ostend.

Local people are represented by: Civic associations, students and youth associations, fishermen associations, businessmen associations.

External Stakeholders are represented by: businessmen associations, tourism interested investors and harbor investors.

Administration is represented by: local, regional, harbor and environment administrations.

C.4 References

D. Process Reflection

Looking back about the experience, the online seminar project contributed to the development of our knowledge and skills. We learned how to link the theoretical aspects with the real, practical interventions and coastal landscape planning.

The experience meant a journey through a project, starting from scratch, from analysis to a vision and interventions that sustain our goals and objective to transform the area, taking into considerations all the actors and stakeholders and their needs. A coastal landscape area is more complex and dynamic, offering both opportunities and disadvantages due to the natural forces that are difficult to integrate with the human will. We learned together how to divide a complex problem(s), finding the causes and ameliorating or solving it.

We also had the opportunity to meet new people, our team mates but also people from other workgroups. The presentations of other teams helped us understand different points of view and also see new technics or ways of representing an idea.

Our limitations are regarding to the research and that most of the interesting sources we found were not in English, but we managed to overcome the language differences. Also, not having a site seeing, seeing the area and talking with locals made difficult to understand what the city needs in order to grow harmoniously.

In the next projects, we will re-use the three steps that we used in this project: Landscape System Analysis, Landscape Evaluation and Assessment and Strategy and vision in order to have a structure to not get lost in the process of planning, regardless of the dimensions of the area.

We would not change much, but for sure we would like if we had more debates and more active communication. Also, more sketching and brain-storms with all the team would have outlined a more coherent project.