Settlement area

  • Settlement area in Flemish territory at 33%

    The total settlement area in 2016 was over 450,000 hectares. That is 33% of the Flemish territory. This is the proportion of space taken up by, among other things, housing, industrial and commercial purposes, transport infrastructure and recreational purposes. 

    Around 39% of the settlement area consists of housing plots (houses and gardens). Roads and railways take up 18%. Land used for services and for industrial and commercial purposes (industrial sites and retail and wholesale areas, including car parks and greenery on these plots) accounts for over 13% of the settlement area while land for recreational purposes (parks, sports grounds and recreational areas) accounts for just under 7%. 

    Another 10% of the settlement area consists of built-up area for which the land use cannot be clearly determined. This includes (both temporary and long-term) unoccupied properties and their gardens, properties such as church buildings and monuments and the grounds around them, and properties without any clearly definable address, such as signal boxes and the like. 

    Slightly less than 11% of the settlement area consists of unspecified non-built artificial land: this includes land with a transport-related function other than roads and railways (squares and parking lots) and (temporarily) undeveloped land in highly urbanised environments. 

    Between 2013 and 2016, the settlement area increased from over 443,000 hectares to 450,000 hectares, which corresponds to an increase from 32.5% to 33.0% of the Flemish territory. The largest increase can be found in ’Residential land' (+45 km²), resulting in an 0.4% increase of this category in the total settlement area. 

  • In 57 Flemish municipalities, the settlement area is higher than or equal to 50%

    Of all Flemish municipalities, Drogenbos, Mortsel, Edegem and Machelen have the highest proportion of settlement area. In all these municipalities, this is over 80% of the territory. With 10%, Zuienkerke has the lowest settlement level. 


    In 57 municipalities, settlement area is higher than or equal to 50%. This is particularly true in the largest urban centres, such as Antwerp and its peripheral municipalities, Ghent, the Brussels Periphery, Roeselare, Leuven and Genk. 


    Contiguous areas with little settlement area, are rare in Flanders. These are limited to the larger nature reserves, such as the Kalmthoutse Heide, and military areas, situated in Limburg mainly. 


Department of Environment and Spatial Development: Ruimtemonitor 

Publication date

15 March 2019

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