Monday, September 28, 2015 - 11:39
Green light in Parliament shutdown "disastrous" for retailers, caterers
With reporting by Graeme Kidd. After the Dutch cabinet gave its approval to a controversial half-billion euro plan to shut parliamentary buildings for 5.5 years for renovations, representatives of shopkeepers, hotel and catering, and museums all sounded alarm bells. Construction work could begin in 2020 effectively shutting down the Binnenhof parliament sqare. "Disastrous for us, the Binnenhof restoration," a spokesman for the Pleinkwartier business association said of the work. The association represents shops and restaurants based around the Plein in Den Hague, a square located adjacent to the Binnenhof. On Friday, the Cabinet approved Minister Stef Blok's plan to shut the buildings, but the Tweede Kamer and Eerste Kamer houses of Dutch parliament will still need to approve the decision. The plan is expected to face resistance at the Eerste Kamer, the country's senate. During the renovation period the Ridderzaal will remain open on the day of the Budget Speech. The leaders of the political parties in the Senate will discuss the renovation plans on Tuesday. An alternate idea to keep the Binnenhof open during restoration would reportedly add 7.5 more years to the duration of the project, costing an additional 125 million euros. "Many people will stay away," the Pleinkwartier representative added in a Telegraaf interview. Meanwhile a spokesman for an association of businesses in the Hofkwartier, a little further west and surrounding the Noordeinde Palace, suggests keeping the Binnenhof area interesting even if it is temporarily shuttered. "Tourists and Hagenaars also find it fun [to use] holes in the fence to see how it is going with the renovations," he noted. The Hofkwartier hopes that if Blok's plan is approved, it is modified to phase in renovations to give tourists more reason to visit the city "Maybe it's a good idea to open Noordeinde Palace to the public during the renovation." Renovations will include the replacement of obsolete piping and wiring, wood rot, fire and safety risks, climate, elevator and pipe installations as well as health and security installations. With all available information from the underlying research the Cabinet decided that the plan presented is cheaper, has fewer risks and will cause less inconvenience. Several alternate sites for government were proposed when the plan was introduced earlier this year, including the far end of IJburg in Amsterdam, a patch of reclaimed land in the capital city.