The damage to homes along the Almelo-De Haandrik canal must be repaired “quickly, clearly and humanely” by the province of Overijssel. That is the advice of Mona Keijzer, mediator between the hundreds of residents with damage to their homes and the province.
Keijzer calls the current scheme lawful, “but I do not think the implementation of the scheme is fair. Most of the pain points of the residents must and can be solved by better claims handling”.
In concrete terms, this means that the claims settlement must be reopened. Reports from after June 16, 2020 will no longer be processed. The scheme should also be more generous, says Keijzer. For example, not only the damage that people have designated themselves must be compensated, but all damage that is eligible for compensation within the scheme.
“When determining the new damage amounts, don’t make a fuss about small wishes, such as painting an entire wall instead of just the part with a crack,” says Keijzer. Claims handling must become easier for homeowners with damage because they will have a single point of contact.
The canal was dredged between 2011 and 2016, so that larger ships could also use it. Soon the first reports of damage to homes came. Residents have been fearing dangerous situations due to subsidence for years. According to many local residents, the damage was initially not taken seriously enough by the province.
The province has had several investigations carried out into the cause of the damage. Research by knowledge institute Deltares from 2021 showed that there are several causes of the subsidence. The peat soil under the foundations of the houses also plays a role in this. Nevertheless, the province of Overijssel acknowledged that the work contributed to the problems.
The province has set up a claims settlement, but some of the residents felt abandoned. They have reached a stalemate with the province about the settlement of claims. A motion from the BBB to hire Mona Keijzer as a mediator was passed unanimously in the provincial government.
An investigation by the National Ombudsman into the canal drama has been halted since Keijzer started working. “We saw the necessary local support for the mediator and also saw overlap between the mediator’s assignment and our intended approach: forward-looking, restoring confidence,” said a spokesperson.
Now that Keijzer’s report has been published, the ombudsman is examining whether there is still a role for him in the file.
Residents feel taken seriously
The action group that stands up for affected residents, Kant noch Wal, is positive about Keijzer’s research. “She spoke to dozens of residents. People really got the chance to tell their story in personal conversations, they feel they are being taken seriously,” says chairman Harry Broekhuizen. “But we also warn that this report does not solve everything. Mona Keijzer only makes recommendations, the Provincial Council must ultimately make the decisions.”
The channel has already cost the province of Overijssel more than eighteen million euros, according to a financial overview requested by RTV Oost. The two largest cost items are compensation for damaged houses (more than 4.7 million) and personnel costs (more than 4 million); among others, the provincial officials who dealt with the file.
Hundreds of notifications
According to the regional broadcaster, all 404 damage reporters have been informed about the settlement of their damage. The amount of the compensation is not known, but the province says that 282 reports have been awarded and a hundred reports have been rejected. Ten reports have since been withdrawn and twelve reports are still being processed.
Keijzer points out in her report that the misery is not yet over for those living near the Almelo-De Haandrik canal. “The hard reality is that the soil is expected to subside further anyway. This means that governments must also join forces to prevent subsidence as much as possible. They should not be afraid to invest and experiment. that residents can make their homes future-proof.”
Because people themselves have “little or no” influence on subsidence, Keijzer believes “that the government should help them make their homes future-proof”. For example, a fund must be set up so that residents can make their own homes future-proof. “From that fund, people can get a loan on favorable terms to improve their foundation.”
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