Save Park Schothorst!

Save Park Schothorst!

Breaking news! Last night 14 July 2020 was a great victory for citizens and park enthusiasts in Amersfoort. After fierce debate and all kinds of political intrigue, our independent Citizens’ Initiative was unanimously adopted and the counter-arguments of the political parties VVD, D66 and CDA who wanted to force through housing plans, were rejected. The municipality is now obliged, on an equal footing with our team, to further develop Park Schothorst within our guiding framework. The municipal plan for 60 new homes in the park is hereby brushed aside and new development – with our consent – may not exceed the original farm building volume, no increase in traffic, and it must fit with the park’s character. It is the first time ever in Amersfoort that Citizens have gained this position, and is seen as a pioneering decision that opens the way for future involvement of citizens!

Here is a film we made to gather support before the crucial vote.

Watch the mayor declaring the winning vote!

Background:

From the very first hour, One Planet supported and was a founding member of the citizen’s protest group that is opposing plans of Amersfoort municipality to build 60 houses inside Park Schothorst, on the site of a historic thatched farmhouse that was burnt down by an arsonist. One Planet hosted the first website until a citizen’s team could be built up to establish its own presence on https://behoudparkschothorst.nl What started with a few residents near the park, has in the meantime become a strong core team that meets each week or two, and a wider group of supporters. Over 5000 people have signed ‘Preserve Park Schothorst.’ The team has 9,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram, has attracted media attention, and is now firmly established on the radar screen for the defence and preservation of Park Schothorst.

No housing in Park Schothorst! Let the Park remain a park! Speak up and make your voice heard! 

The housing plan was first discussed on Tuesday May 14, 2019 in the city council. Led by Preserve Park Schothorst, the tribunals were packed with angry citizens and the atmosphere was tense and emotional. During a political cliff-hanger, Councillor Janssen lost by one switch-vote the necessary support to proceed with her plan and was instructed by the ruling coalition to enter into dialogue with local residents and stakeholders Besluitenlijst_De_Ronde_14_mei_2019_Herontwikkeling_Schothorsterlaan_88

Since then, our preservation-group has held many bilateral meetings with the municipality and all political parties. Preserve Park Schothorst has publicised her own clear guidelines for development on the site:

  • No new roads or traffic
  • Development to be restricted to the volume and height of the previous farmhouse
  • Development must fit with the rural and ecological character of the park

After more busy and emotional public meetings inside the park which our team helped to galvanise, Councillor Janssen of the municipality withdrew her housing plan and is now organising a Round Table to decide jointly with our team and other parties, what should happen at the site of the old burnt-down farmhouse. We have no illusions that housing is still the political agenda, but we will engage constructively to find a solution within our guidelines.

Below: media coverage about citizens strong protest against municipal housing plans

This long and difficult experience over the last year has shown that the municipality and the governing political coalition, who both pretend to democratically represent local constituencies and interests, do not know how to proceed or deal with determined citizens who stand up as an independent group to challenge their authority and demand a say in what happens in their own city and suburbs. The municipality has now hired a mediator to lead the Round Table and will start experimenting with citizen participation. It remains to be seen in the coming months how this develops. The first battle for citizens’ participation has been won, but not yet the war.

Our Schothorst-team remains committed to the long-term protection of the whole park, not only on the site of the old farmhouse that is now under consideration, but also within all other areas of the original park boundary of 1988. Time and again, the municipality has given away pieces of this park for new building developments. If the citizens of Amersfoort do not stand up to actively protect their ecological heritage against further building and economic exploitation, then little will remain of this beautiful ‘green lung’ in the middle of the northern suburbs by the time our children are adults.

Below: the original park boundaries of 1988

Below: encroachment of development within the park boundaries of 1988

Below: the original historic site and vegetable gardens, before the farmhouse burnt down.

Below: the present beautiful park that we want to protect against further development and destruction