An area of land in Zeeland the size of 450 football pitches can be cleared of farms and flooded, the Council of State said on Tuesday, ending years of dispute about the plans.
The Netherlands agreed to flood the Hedwigepolder in a deal with Belgium to deepen the Westerschelde estuary in 2005. The aim is to compensate for the loss of wildlife habitats by the removal of sandbanks and other obstacles in the estuary which leads to Antwerp port.
Locals had campaigned furiously against the plan, arguing that there were sufficient alternatives and that there are doubts about the sort of tidal mudflats which will develop once the farmland is under water.
The area to be flooded covers some 285 hectares and was reclaimed from the sea just over 100 years ago.
The owner of the land said in a reaction to the ruling that he intended to fight on, and would consider asking the European Court of Justice to look at the issue. A spokesman for Gery de Cloedt, who is a Belgian national, said the Council of State had not taken the opposing arguments sufficiently into account, broadcaster Nos said.
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