Loser of last quarter: H. Essers

Logistics service supplier H. Essers has been granted permission to extend its premises in the Belgian city of Genk at the expense of the 12 hectares of neighbouring nature reserve, including an evergreen forest. The company wanted to build a 70,000-square-metre warehouse but the site formed part of Natura 2000, a European network of protected ecological areas. Despite months of protests by environmental groups, the plan has now been officially approved. According to Flemish Minister of Nature Joke Schauvliege, the creation of 400 new jobs is essential in a city with 3,600 unemployed, and “the decision strives to achieve a balance between ecology and the economy”. By way of compensation, Essers has pledged to plant 13.2 hectares of woodland in Opglabbeek, which borders Genk, plus one hectare of new grassland in Zonhoven.

Furthermore, a nature reserve in Genk will be extended by 7.5 hectares and a car park in Zonhoven will be demolished and returned to nature. Various articles in the Belgian media have called into question whether Essers will deliver on its promises, reporting that the logistics service provider failed to do so following a previous expansion project. Essers itself stated that it is committed to taking action to compensate for the loss of natural woodland.