Proposed offshore island to protect a haunt of Sinatra and Dietrich would be its ruin, says long-time mayor
It is known affectionately as Belgium’s answer to St Tropez – a town once frequented by Frank Sinatra and Marlene Dietrich and which has inspired the pop art of Keith Haring and surrealism of René Magritte, who painted the walls of the town’s casino.
But now the chic, if slightly faded, seaside resort of Knokke-Heist is, in the words of its mayor, Count Leopold Lippens, in a “fight for its life”. The Flemish government, in an attempt to limit the damage to the Belgian coast from rising sea levels, has announced plans for an artificial island of 40 hectares (99 acres) 1.2 kilometres from the sandy beach, to act as a bulwark against the waves. Belgium has, until now, been slow to respond to climate change and its coast has suffered severe damage during recent storms.