Josan Meijers: We work with residents and entrepreneurs to create a sustainable and beautiful Lingewaard for future generations
Interview with Ms Josan Meijers, Mayor of Lingewaard
- May 14, 2020 11:30
- Aseniya Dimitrova
Ms Meijers, how would you describe Lingewaard for our audience?
Lingewaard is a municipality located in the east of the Netherlands, between the cities of Arnhem and Nijmegen. The green district (an area of almost 70 km2/27 square miles) abounding in water is located in the Rhine delta and has about 46,500 inhabitants in seven different urban centres.
Lingewaard is originally an area of (greenhouse) horticulture. The many horticultural businesses and the innovative glasshouse horticultural zone NEXTgarden are an important economic factor.
It seems to an outsider like a calm, safe and prospective place to live and work in. What are Lingewaard’s biggest challenges and what are the best approaches to resolving them, in your opinion?
The agricultural and horticultural sectors in Lingewaard belong to the top in the Netherlands. Educational institutions and authorities in our region - Wageningen University, Radboud University, Van Hall Larenstein in Velp, the Economic Board and the Province of Gelderland - are connected to this glasshouse horticultural area in many ways. We, therefore, expect to be able to take major and innovative steps in the coming years in the combined effect of new greenhouse horticulture and energy.
The energy transition is arguably one of the biggest challenges for the coming years. Lingewaard is looking forward to becoming a climate-neutral municipality in 2050. What are the steps to achieve this goal? In what ways will the local administration lead this process and set the example?
The combination of energy self-sufficiency, companies enhancing each other and the physical space for growth ensures that current and new farmers and horticulturists are well located in our municipality.
The ambition of NEXTgarden is to be the first climate-neutral horticultural zone in the Netherlands. Within NEXTgarden, Lingezegen Energy, a collective energy company of 14 horticultural enterprises, operates its own energy network.
The Municipality of Lingewaard works together with residents and entrepreneurs to create a sustainable and beautiful Lingewaard, also for future generations. The municipality manages energy, water and the environment carefully and economically, both in the residential areas and in NEXTgarden.
In cooperation with residents, organisations and companies, this has led to various sustainable initiatives. A biomass CHP plant, a fermentation plant and several solar parks and wind turbines provide sustainable energy.
We are investigating whether the greenhouses in the NEXTgarden area could also be energy suppliers for residents and businesses in the surrounding areas. Lingewaard aims to be climate-neutral by 2050.
The municipality aims to offer more modern services to the residents. Which processes will be optimised, digitalized, and simplified? Will you be introducing new smart services in the upcoming years?
Lingewaard is a modern government: close to its citizens, accessible and customer friendly. As a municipality, we are responsible for our residents’ welfare: local care facilities, safety, accessibility, and economic development. Good and modern service to our residents and entrepreneurs is of the utmost importance to the municipality of Lingewaard.
Lingewaard keeps up with recent progress, i.e. by providing online information to residents and handling their queries digitally. We want to improve and expand this digital offering in the coming years.
We realise that for some of our residents this form of service is not self-evident, but equally, we know that the digital age is well underway. Our residents will have to learn to deal with that, too. That's why we always seek out personal contact, allowing us to enable people to learn and find their way in the digital world.
Is there any innovative solution or interesting initiative implemented in Lingewaard that you would like to share with us and the other mayors in the EU?
I've been mayor of Lingewaard for a little over 8 months now. In just over six months' time, a mayor nominated by the city council and appointed by our King, Willem-Alexander, will take over this beautiful task from me. At that time, I want to hand over a municipality that has made rapid and significant improvements in its organisation of care and welfare.
In addition, it is vitally important that our employees will be able to work together again in a new town hall soon: our town hall was largely destroyed by fire 18 months ago, which has made work very difficult for our 350+ employees.
Everyone, spread over various emergency buildings, has done their utmost to serve our residents and businesses as well as possible under the circumstances. We managed, but it hasn’t been easy! In August 2020, exactly two years after the fire, we hope to officially open our new, beautiful and welcoming town hall.
Finally, you have been mayor of the municipality for only a few months now. What lies ahead for you in your professional career? Do you plan to remain in local politics?
I will have just celebrated my 65th birthday at that point, and I will then say a warm and joyful goodbye to this special, beautiful municipality with its wonderfully genial inhabitants.