Parking in “Castle Garden” Zevenbergen: nostalgic with a porous paving system

The Castle Garden in Zevenbergen is a pleasant site in the middle of the town centre. The Castle Garden is much more than just a parking area, and will change Zevenbergen beyond recognition. Thanks to the refurbishment of this nostalgic location, the municipality has created an innovative parking space with pavement that allows water to pass through. Together with the greenery and the various references to history, the Castle Garden has remained an interesting place.

The centre of the West Brabant town of Zevenbergen is currently undergoing a true metamorphosis. De Haven [the harbour], still an ordinary street in the town centre with parking spaces, is set to be transformed into a genuine little harbour. After decades of absence, the water will be returning. Recreational boats with a height of up to 1.65 metres, will soon be able to moor in the centre of this little town. The canal houses along the broad street give a clue as to how it used to be, before being filled in during the 1970s. 

That the water will soon be returning to the town centre is pleasing, but it comes at the expense of two hundred parking spaces in the town centre. Also, the market adjacent to the harbour will be car-free, and the little steps that are still there will be removed. Similar to the harbour, the square will regain its original function. The stalls that are now scattered around the harbour will move back to the market. “We are currently busy investigating the location of Second World War explosives, as Zevenbergen was bombed twice. The actual excavation work is still in the tendering phase. But we are already feeling the pressure from the lack of parking spaces”, explains Werner Voermans from the town of Moerdijk. This is why it is good that the new Castle Garden, directly opposite the historic heart, is almost ready to open. At the moment they are working on the final details. This makes it the first part project for the centre of Zevenbergen to be completed.

Castle Garden

The name Castle Garden tells you something about its history: here you enter historic ground (see box). In ancient times, this was the domain of the Lords of Zevenbergen, however those days are now long gone. Until a few years ago an elementary school was housed here and the rest was partly wasteland. The area was, in short, an orphaned space, despite the fact that it was in close proximity to the historic heart of Zevenbergen. That has now all changed. “We did not want it to become just a place to park, but more of a leisure area,” Voermans explains. Located directly alongside the site are service flats with views of the area. The elderly now have a view of the surroundings and are able to walk here, despite the fact that the grounds are not yet finished, and there are still fences here and there. To finance the whole project, the municipality of Moerdijk sold five plots, directly adjacent to the area. This is where homes are being built.

To optimise the residential area as much as possible, it was decided to plant lots of greenery. The plane trees, among other things that lost their place in the harbour, were replanted here so the greenery looks more mature. “The site already has a lot of character,” Voermans demonstrates. To emphasize the history of the Castle Garden, historical references abound. The undisputed centrepiece is the steel replica of the former Castle Gate or Lobbestoren. This is a steel plate with the tower cut out in silhouette. This detail is mirrored in the paving. Voermans is proud of it: “This is genuine craftsmanship. It is, in fact, a huge puzzle.” Near the gate, an historic text can be found running along the banding. A number of seats have been placed around the harbour. In May, when the Castle Garden is officially opened, banners on hardwood poles, with images of the historic town of Zevenbergen, will be illuminated by sunken uplighters, putting the finishing touch to it all.

A location without storm drains

A high-quality finish, right down to the paving. The bands are a luxury dark charcoal, the access paths between the adjoining rear gardens and the grounds are 50x50 concrete grass slabs that look like cobblestones. “Not the cheapest materials,” Voermans explains. “But we did that deliberately. We wanted its character to shine through. The Drainflow pavers enabled us to design a site without any storm drains.” Voermans says. “As a result, the paving is sleek and tightly laid. The spherical elevation in the paths is a mere three centimetres and we have no gullies or raised areas to the storm drains.”

Water-permeable felt has been placed between the Drainflow paving and the Drainvast joint. These carpet-like coasters, made from recycled materials, ensure that the rainwater continues to flow systematically into the ground, because unlike traditional joint materials, these do not silt up. In addition to the special paving around the replica of the castle gate, this is the only manual work in the hardening process. The felt strips were all applied by people who are distanced from the employment market. “This enabled us to introduce a social component into the project,” Voermans explains.

Sustainability is the key word for the Castle Garden. The paving system (five thousand square metres) is porous, and three layers down it is collected in three separate compartments, in a layer of gravel, and below that, a coarse blend of mixed granules. In the event of an extreme torrent of rain, a vortex flow control valve allows a delayed discharge of excess water via a narrow sewer pipe into a water channel along the front of the town hall. “We are just on the edge of clay soil, and this way we can ensure that the water can be discharged without needing to pump it away. We store it all locally,” Voermans explains. The new LED lighting also contributes to its sustainable character. This is dimmed in the evenings to save energy and to reduce light pollution. To be able to facilitate sustainable transport, there are also charging posts for electric cars. Parking will continue to be free.

The Castle Garden is now as good as ready; and the rest of the town centre will now begin to notice it. This summer we will be announcing the name of the contractor who will take on the huge job of renovating the harbour. An explosives and sewer survey still needs to be conducted, as well as a review of the other utilities. On 1 January 2019, there will be water flowing through the canal, and the following autumn, the surrounding street paving will be finished to complete the entire plan. And what about the former tea room where Voermans is based today? That obstacle will have gone by then. “In a few years time, you won't be able to recognise Zevenbergen.”

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