The town of Nijlen aims to become an innovator with regards to open space policy, smart densification and identity development. The municipality wants to play a proactive role in spatial development by steering and inspiring. The Open Space Perspective (ORP) develops a municipality-wide vision on the open space, with Inspiring image quality guidelines and detailed design research for strategic locations.
An extensive analysis demonstrates the many qualities of the open space, but also how these qualities are not used to their full potential and the lack of coordination between them. It also shows that many initiatives are taking place in the open space, but that the municipality lacks an overall vision to steer these dynamics to their advantage. The ORP helps the municipality to make strategic choices based on a clear vision and future identity in mind. It offers a toolbox to guide, coordinate and inspire ongoing projects.
The document is structured around 6 strategic goals and a vision on image quality. The main touristic and recreational attractions are combined in clusters with a strong identity, a regional allure and shared amenities. The linearity of the popular bicycle routes along the two rivers that demarcate the town is broken by creating strategic connections to an hierarchic network of walking and cycling routes covering the municipal territory. This network connects the recreational destinations and the four town centers, making it easier for the inhabitants to enjoy the landscape and for recreational visitors to reach the amenities in the centers. ‘Village Gardens’ are introduced as a way to make the transition between the town centers and the landscape and to gather open space program, such as playgrounds, sport infrastructure and urban farming, near the centers. Image quality guidelines for the design of the open space are aimed at strengthening the legibility and experience of the local landscape.
A broad group of stakeholders was closely involved during the whole process, adding expertise and allowing for a quick detection of opportunities and coalitions. The inhabitants were consulted through surveys, information panels and a bicycle route along strategic locations. The intense participatory approach and the use of inspiring design research created a new dynamic, interesting partnerships and a realization-oriented approach.
Simultaneous to this process, the municipality was also working on an image quality vision for the town centers. Frequent coordination between the two studies ensured complementarity and this way a complete vision on the development of the town was created. The town won the bi-annual prize of the Flemish Organization for Spatial Planners in 2018 for this innovative approach and the results.