European cooperation

Since March 2010, the project agency for the ‘Hoge Kempen’ National Park of the not-for-profit organization Regional Landscape Kempen and Maaslandparticipates in the InterregIVB-project WECAN.

WECAN: Working together for Economically prosperous Communities through Assets of Natural heritage.

Since March 2010, the project agency ‘Hoge Kempen’ National Park of the Regionaal Landschap Kempen en Maasland participates in the InterregIVB-project WECAN.

WECAN stands for: Working together for Economically prosperous Communities through Assets of Natural Heritage.

The aim of this project is to determine and to demonstrate how natural heritage can be used as a catalyst for economic growth and as a benefit for communities in highly populated post-industrial areas in Nord-West Europe.

The partners in this Interreg IVB-project are:

·         Regionaal Landschap Kempen en Maasland (Lead partner) (BE)

·         Groundwork Wales on behalf of the Valleys Regional Park (Wales – UK)

·         Regional Natural Park of Avesnois (FR)

·         Regional Natural Areas (FR)

·         Regional Natural Park Scarpe-Scheldt (FR)

·         Welsh Assembly Government (Wales – UK)

For more information:

These partner regions are defined as densely populated, post-industrial areas, that have suffered greatly from the disappearance of heavy industry, mostly the mining industry. They are now characterized by economic and social decline, high economic inactivity and problems due to social exclusion.

What is more, all these regions have a rich natural heritage combined with an increase in free areas from former industry. The way we approach this project will help to increase economic returns, prosperity, pride and confidence.

Due to the economic crisis, the project aims to enlarge the under-appreciated economic potential of natural heritage. The partners want to demonstrate, in an innovative way, how to activate this potential for a long term effect and how to use it as leverage for new investments.

Despite the fact that each partner suffers specific problems because of the cultural differences of the regions, they also have a lot in common, due to their post-industrial character combined with the proximity of large areas of natural heritage.

Sadly enough, we must realise that these communities are, at least partly, excluded from the rest of the region. Contrary to the traditional, rural regions, natural heritage is seldom seen as an opportunity to stimulate economic growth in these densely populated, post-industrial areas.

Therefore we want to:

1)     Develop transferable techniques, test and evaluate their possibilities to use them as research tools into the economic potential of natural heritage in densely populated, post-industrial areas.

2)     Develop, test, promote and evaluate innovative examples how the private sector can learn to use natural heritage in a responsible way

3)     Evaluate existing Visitor Pay-back mechanisms for natural heritage, develop systems adapted to these specific regions and test their efficiency to then create guidelines for applications in other regions.

4)     Stimulate the social economy in our communities by gaining insights into the factors that influence engagement of the communities for natural heritage and, so, create extra chances or new possibilities for employment.

For the partners, this project offers a unique possibility for transnational cooperation, that way gaining better insights both in theory and in practice of how sustainable use of natural heritage can be used to stimulate economic growth in different densely populated, post-industrial areas in North-West Europe.

The total budget for this project is € 4.131.790, half of this budget is provided by Europe through the Interreg IVB-NWE programme.

20th of October 2011 - Conference eVALUEate NATURE

On this conference, the first results of the Interreg IVB-project WECAN have been presented to the public, including national and European policy makers.  Almost 100 participants gathered to study the different techniques used to evaluate nature. Experts from Belgium, the Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom shared their insights into the economic value of nature.