Traditional Dutch landscape under threat

December 17, 2008

Current government policy is failing to protect traditional Dutch landscapes says Dutch researcher Evelien van Rij. Green areas in the Randstad region with cultural historic value will disappear unless specific agricultural policy is developed for them. This will require both considerable investments and sufficient legislation from the Dutch government.

Evelien van Rij investigated possible improvements to rules and policy programmes for green areas on urban fringes. Her most important recommendation is that a distinction should be made in agricultural policy between traditional Dutch landscapes which are used for recreation in the Randstad region, and other agricultural areas in the rest of the Netherlands.

Long-term planning

Slow planning must take centre stage in the policy for beautiful traditional Dutch landscapes in the Randstad region: the planning rules, the ownership structure and the attractiveness of the area must together keep the urban dynamic out of these areas and guarantee their continued existence in the longer term. Spatial planning and, in particular, land-use plans are important, but without additional agricultural policy they do not provide enough protection. As the government is opting less and less for additional policy measures, such as land consolidation and land purchase, the continued existence of green areas is under serious threat.

Cultural history costs money

Van Rij investigated the reconstruction of Midden-Delfland, building developments to cross-subsidise green developments in the Bloemendalerpolder and the national landscape Laag Holland. The most effective approach for maintaining green areas consists of a combination of physical interventions to make green areas attractive, spatial planning measures to prohibit new constructions via land-use plans, and the purchase of land, for example, to protect areas from project developers. Agricultural land ownership can be kept viable by consolidating government land and leasing it for a low price. However, the financial resources required for such an approach are considerable. New concepts such as cross-subsidy strategies, in which the profits from new developments are invested in green areas, are suitable for less attractive landscapes with a minimal recreational function, but do not usually contribute to the retention of a green area with cultural historic value. Merely the suspicion that new developments are possible can push up land prices and threaten the landscape.

Money and rules from the government

Van Rij is of the opinion that the Dutch central government has a critical role to play in preserving green areas because it is in a position to make budgets available and make new legislation. Dutch municipalities and landowners usually tend to choose in favour of new developments.
-end-
The doctoral research 'Improving institutions for green landscapes in metropolitan areas' was carried out at the OTB Research Institute of Delft University of Technology as part of the NWO programme Social Scientific Research into Nature and the Environment (GaMON). The research is affiliated to the Habiforum programme Innovative use of space.

Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research

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