Report on online information meetings on Binnenhof renovation, 17 May 2021
The renovation of the 800-year-old Binnenhof is scheduled to commence in the autumn of 2021. This complex of buildings is an important piece of cultural heritage that we must protect. The renovation work will take about five and a half years. The people who live, work and spend time around the Binnenhof have raised many questions, as this renovation is a major undertaking. The Central Government Real Estate Agency (RVB) and the municipality of The Hague therefore organised two online information meetings for local residents and businesses neighbouring the Binnenhof, which were held on 17 May 2021. The current situation was explained and questions were answered.
Over 100 participants
In total, over 100 local residents, retailers and representatives of the hospitality industry, interest groups and (cultural) institutions took part in the online meetings. Tom Scholte, advisor to the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations was the moderator. Participants were able to use the chat function to ask their questions live to speakers from RVB and the municipality of The Hague.
The Binnenhof Area Team
The Binnenhof Area Team
After a short introduction, Marieke van den Bosch talked about her role as area manager in the Binnenhof Renovation programme: "People can come to me with questions about their concerns and wishes, which I will pass to my RVB colleagues or other parties I am in contact with." Many ideas have been collected in recent years and they are discussed by the Binnenhof Area Team (KOB). The KOB advises the municipality of The Hague and the RVB on how best to maintain visitor numbers in the city centre during the renovation. " This is one of the agreements - from 'the little purple book' (Het Paarse Boekje, only available in Dutch)- that were made in 2017 between residents and business owners in the immediate vicinity of the Binnenhof, the municipality and the RVB.
Jewel of the city
Saskia Bruines, executive councillor for the Economy and coordinating executive councillor for the Binnenhof continued: "The Binnenhof is the jewel of the city and of our democracy. A beautifully refurbished Binnenhof with good amenities for users and visitors is of great importance to the city's economy. The renovation is a large-scale intervention with a major impact on the city centre. That's why we have to involve and inform local residents and business owners as best we can. And look for possible solutions together. Open communication is essential if we are to build trust. I understand the concerns of business owners and residents."
The municipality is in dialogue with the RVB to ensure that there is a clear contact point for any questions, complaints or damage claims. Activities have to be efficiently programmed to keep the area attractive for residents, visitors and users. A lot of money has already been invested in the city centre in recent years. Bruines: "It's also important to keep up the pace so that the renovation really does take five and a half years."
Cooperation and consultation
Programme director with ultimate responsibility for the renovation project at the Central Government Real Estate Agency, Marc Unger looks back and ahead. "The closer the renovation gets, the more actively we will be communicating with the municipality and the contractors. We can only do this properly in cooperation and consultation with the users of the Binnenhof, the municipality, institutions, residents and business owners in the area around the Binnenhof. People often ask: why is this renovation necessary? The Binnenhof represents 800 years of cultural heritage. We have to take good care of it and cherish it, so that future generations can continue to use and enjoy it. It's now necessary to repair structural defects, replace technical installations, remove asbestos and permanently guarantee fire safety. If a fire were to break out now, this historic complex would almost certainly be lost.
The Binnenhof houses the Council of State, the Ministry of General Affairs, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The temporary accommodation - to which these users will relocate from the summer - is almost ready.
Back in 2015 it was decided to do the renovation in one go and not in phases because the Binnenhof buildings are interconnected. Sometimes there's a misunderstanding about what the work on the Binnenhof buildings involves. We're renovating them. We're not restoring them; that would be too time-consuming and expensive. The government has ordered them to be renovated as frugally and efficiently as possible."
In early May, executive councillor Bruines informed The Hague municipal council that a moat would be built alongside the Binnenhof. A question was received via chat: why a moat? Unger: "The renovation plan includes a new moat that connects to the Hofvijver. The moat will provide security and is needed to allow the cellars to be used as working space. It will allow daylight in. It is also consistent with the municipality's vision of restoring part of the moat where it used to be."
Unger also reported that many investigations had to be conducted in preparation for the renovation, e.g. into the history of the buildings (archaeological investigations) (only available in Dutch); information that is relevant to the design of each part of the complex. Investigations had also been carried out into ways of reducing nitrogen emissions during the construction process and satisfying environmental requirements for flora and fauna. For example, temporary bat shelters (only available in Dutch) had been installed in and around the Binnenhof. In the spring of 2021, trial trenches were also dug to examine the infrastructure of cables and pipes (only available in Dutch) under the Binnenhof. Unger: "A large proportion of the cables and pipes will have to be rerouted. In addition, the Binnenhof will have its own heat and cold storage system. In future, it will also be connected to the Energierijk Den Haag network (only available in Dutch)."
Routes for construction traffic
Three routes for construction traffic have been agreed with the municipality of The Hague:
- The preferred route (blue) = the main route in Buitenhof and the Plaats
- Alternative route (purple) = via Spui, along the Stadhouderspoort and the Hofpoort. This applies if, for example, there are works on the preferred route.
- Alternative route (yellow) = via Lange Houtstraat, Plein and Vijverberg. This is for situations when materials can be delivered to or removed from that side.
Unger showed that the plans at this time do not include pontoons on the Hofvijver for storing building materials. "For work on the façades and roofs on the Hofvijver side, we will of course be using pontoons in order to guarantee the safety of the construction workers and their access to the site. During the construction period, pedestrians and cyclists will always be able to travel to and from the city centre via Lange Poten and Vijverberg from the end of 2022 onwards. We think it's important that the area around the Binnenhof should remain clean, safe and accessible during the renovation and that the number of visitors to the city centre should stay around the same level. Business owners naturally want to know about access to their premises. We don't foresee any permanent barriers that would make shops inaccessible." In between, a chat question was received: Would shop owners/residents receive compensation if windows/walls had to be thoroughly cleaned because of building dust, for example, during façade work at Lange Poten? Unger: "We will clean the windows if they do get covered in building dust from façade work."
In practice, the work will usually be carried out on normal working days. By law, construction work is permitted from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., including Saturdays should the need arise. Materials will only be delivered and stored on site or removed from it at the moment they are actually needed. Unger: "This way we avoid unnecessary traffic movements. For large-scale storage, a 'construction hub' will be set up elsewhere in the city."
Construction permits have been requested for the renovation of the Senate and Council of State. (After this information meeting, an application for a construction permit for the House of Representatives was also submitted, ed.). A construction permit covers, among other things, the heritage values of the building and the impact of the work on the environment. A permit application for the energy supply to the Binnenhof will follow. Permits may be inspected by appointment at the Hague Information Centre (only available in Dutch).
Unger: "The Senate, the House of Representatives and the Council of State are scheduled to move this summer. After Prinsjesdag (Budget Day) 2021, hoardings will be erected part of the way around the Binnenhof and the renovation work, including demolition and asbestos removal, will begin. We agreed this with the municipality in the Accessibility, Safety and Communication Plan (ASC Plan). There will also be a visitor centre providing information on the Binnenhof renovation and a contact point for questions, complaints or suggestions during the construction work. And a start is being made with the construction of a viewing platform from which you can see the construction site."
Albert Koolma, urban planning consultant for the municipality of The Hague, explained that archaeologists are involved in the investigations in the trial trenches for the cable and pipe infrastructure, in case there are archaeological finds. "A lot of work has to be done underground in order to create the moat next to the Hofvijver, such as replacing and rerouting cables and pipes. And as for the city centre, the municipality wants to make it more biodiverse and green, including the Binnenhof. It's also a good time to tackle the outdoor areas at Lange Poten, Hofplaats and Plein to make them more lively and reduce the number of cars and bicycles. The organic market will be moving to another location in the city centre."
Attractive city centre
Peter Stokman, policy advisor for economics and tourism at the municipality of The Hague, added: "In 2017, agreements were made with the RVB to create an attractive city centre during the renovation. The Binnenhof is an important attraction in terms of promoting The Hague as a tourist destination. Research has shown that 61% of visitors to The Hague come to the Binnenhof. I myself am a member of the KOB advisory committee, which is contributing ideas for programmes to keep the Binnenhof attractive in the years ahead. With a renovation scheduled to take five and a half years, we also need to think about the long term to 2030. For 2021 and 2022 the municipality will be investing a total of 4.75 million euros to make the city centre more attractive and to restore the visitor economy to its former level. A significant part of this investment (from the socio-economic recovery plan) will go towards maintaining the flow of visitors around the Binnenhof, such as:
- An extensive winter programme
- Attractive lighting of buildings in the Museum Quarter
- Putting the Museum Quarter on the international map
- Counteracting vacant properties in the city centre
In addition, ongoing marketing is needed to inform visitors what is going on in the area and that it will remain accessible during the renovation. A programme manager will also be employed to collect ideas and present them to the KOB: which initiatives are feasible and will have the greatest impact? A programming fund will be set up to implement these ideas. In addition, guided tours will be provided if any archaeological finds are revealed in and around the Binnenhof."
Marieke van den Bosch, area manager for the Binnenhof renovation, added: "A young design agency was awarded a contract by the Board of Government Advisors following a competition. This resulted in an attractive proposal for a viewing platform with a view of the Binnenhof during the renovation. Visitors can take the stairs, or use the lift if they have trouble walking, and from the roof they can look out over the Binnenhof, the building site and the city. The KOB embraced the idea. Together with the contractor and the design agency, we will decide on the details of how this can be created."
Area Consultative Body on the Binnenhof Renovation
Finally, Van den Bosch talked about communication with local residents and businesses (only available in Dutch) neighbouring the Binnenhof. "Supplementing the KOB, the Area Consultative Body on the Binnenhof Renovation (OBR) is a useful feedback group. They mainly discuss the accessibility and liveability of the Binnenhof area. I attend meetings of interest groups such as Overkoepelend Overleg Pleinkwartier and Binnenstad in Bedrijf, and I have contact with various residents' associations. That's where I hear people's concerns. I am the RVB's link with all these bodies and I find it important that we put their interests on the table. In order to gauge all these opinions, an area survey is now being carried out that will be repeated at regular intervals over the next few years. We will use the results to respond to the public's information needs. The C-paragraph in the BVC plan describes some of the communication tools we plan to use during implementation, such as a website and a central hotline with a phone number that is available day and night. This is now being worked out together with Heijmans' area manager, who as the coordinating contractor will be the point of contact for local residents and businesses. A participation plan is also being drawn up to see what other aspects we can involve the local community in, such as archaeological research".
A look back
The online information meetings can be viewed via the links below.