No housing at the Hortus botanicus
I recently took note with interest of Mrs. Borstlap van Woonborg’s view on the destination of the Hortus site in Haren de Krant. Now that the Municipality of Groningen is taking over the Hortus and the Biotope from the RU Groningen, it considers that area very suitable for housing. This is certainly true for the Biotope part: the high-rise buildings there are already quite old and are not suitable for sustainability because of the large amount of asbestos that has been incorporated into the building. Technically speaking, these buildings will last another 5 or 10 years at most. Excellent housing can be built at this location in the form of high-rise buildings for the low and middle segment of the housing market. This certainly does not apply to the actual Hortus site.
Although the Hortus was originally a garden complex for education and research, it has changed over time into a park-like landscape with a public function (33,000 visitors in 2021). The transformation from scientific garden to public garden has taken place over time while preserving the ecological and botanical values. The Hortus still has a great diversity of plants, including many red list species. The number of mushroom species that occurs is also very large. It is precisely because of this great biodiversity that the Laarmantuin, the oldest ecological garden in the Netherlands, has been included in the National Plant Collection. In this period, when biodiversity is under pressure, the Hortus deserves to be preserved as a hotspot.
Apart from this important biodiversity, there is another reason to preserve the Hortus. Against the background of climate change, awareness has grown that larger green areas in an urban environment are of great importance for quality of life; the Hortus is such an area. Due to the urbanization of the area, the Hortus has now come to be located more in the center of the built-up area. A green hotspot like the Hortus fulfills the necessary function that gardens have traditionally had: the opportunity to withdraw from the daily hectic for a moment of rest. Now that a garden is becoming less and less available for many in the urban environment, it is becoming necessary to include it in the context of future environmental plans. The Hortus is easily accessible due to its location. In this context, reference can also be made to the many clients (mainly the elderly) of ZINN and Beatrixoord who have separate access to the Hortus. Also in view of the qualities of the Hortus and the many visitors, the Hortus undoubtedly fulfills a suprawijk function.
In addition to the existing botanical gardens, the Hortus also includes the Chinese garden. This authentic Ming garden is the only one of its kind in Europe and was a gift from the city of Shanghai to the city and the Province of Groningen. Partly because of its completely different concept, this Chinese garden is attractive to the public to learn about and therefore deserves to be preserved for future generations.
If we start from the values to which, according to the Green Plan of the Municipality of Groningen, an area can contribute to the quality of the living environment (natural value, health, better air quality, climate-adaptive environment, aesthetic value, cultural-historical value and economic value), the Hortus Haren should be to be emphatically in the picture when safeguarding green heritage values.
In short, housing is necessary, but not on the Hortus site. There is plenty of space elsewhere.
J. Poutsma / board member SBGH