Homes, bus transport and uniqueness must save the Limburg village 11:30 in Regional news 5000 extra homes must make typical Limburg villages attractive again to live there.

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Keeping small centers alive is a subject that appears in almost all programs of the 20 parties participating in the elections in Limburg. It differs what they want to tackle and how they want to do it.

For years, more and more facilities have been disappearing from many Limburg villages. After the church, the middle class and education have also largely left. It is the consequences of active government policy that put an end to building plans in the so-called shrinking regions. And there are quite a few of them in Limburg.

In the years when nothing was allowed to be built, many young people in particular moved away, resulting in a population decline and an aging population. With empty primary schools and shop premises as a result.

Sheep pulling through Epen

But since 2015 there has hardly been any shrinkage in Limburg, mainly due to migration. The current provincial council has therefore started the Quality Limburg Centers (KLC) program together with market parties and municipalities.

One of the plans is to add more than 5,000 homes in 31 municipalities. These homes will be located in the empty schools, shops and churches of centers such as Vredepeel (230 inhabitants), Veulen (555) and Geijsteren (410).

The total investment amounts to 1 billion, of which the province finances only 25 million. The rest comes from the national government, municipalities, market parties and housing corporations.

Keep going

Mayor Bob Vostermans (CDA) of the municipality of Beesel hopes that the province will now press ahead. Vostermans was previously alderman for public housing in his municipality and remembers that the province came along with the announcement that 10 percent of the housing plans had to be scrapped.

Now he is optimistic: “We can now build homes so that young residents can continue to live in their core.”

But housing alone is not enough. College party VVD also wants places with a ‘social character’ such as community centers to be created. Something that can also be found in the program of GroenLinks: a facility in every village.

Improve public transport

What also plays a role in many villages is the impoverishment of regional transport. In Limburg, 149 bus stops have disappeared in the past 5 years, which is 9 percent of the total. Improving public transport can also be found in almost all party programs.

A recent poll by Kieskompas shows that two thirds (65 percent) of the participants believe that the province should invest extra money in public transport. More than 59 percent of voters want a bus to small villages more often. Even if the provincial road tax would have to be increased for this.

The PVV, SP and PvdA want all small centers to be accessible and want the costs of public transport to be drastically reduced. Coalition parties VVD and CDA want to expand the existing wish bus. It takes residents to places within their municipality on demand and is operated by volunteers.

Neighborhood supermarket

In addition to closing the churches and schools, many villages also saw the middle class disappear.

Patrick Craenen, owner of a neighborhood supermarket in Melderslo, a village with just over 2000 inhabitants in North Limburg, is still there. But due to the ever-increasing costs, the water has been at his lips since August last year.

He hopes that the upcoming season will go better with turnover. “The number of customers remains at the same level, but people have less to spend. They can give it to me, but what goes into the basket will change.”

Patrick Craenen – owner neighborhood supermarket in Melderslo.

In addition, parties such as Limburg Local, PVV and Forum for Democracy want to stimulate vitality in the villages by investing in typical Limburg culture in the villages.

The idea is, among other things, by promoting the Limburg dialect, supporting harmony and brass bands, the civic guards and the carnival association that people remain in their villages. According to these parties, a strong local identity prevents people from wanting to live elsewhere.

If you take stock, there is, not very surprisingly, no match against stimulating the quality of life in the villages. However, there is a different sound at the Party for the Animals and Omzien! – a split from the CDA. They argue that there is a limit to economic development and growth, also of villages. Nuclei and villages must therefore not become too large.

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