Analysis of the Planning System of the Netherlands

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The Netherlands, a coastal country in which 26% of its land area lies underneath sea level, is known to many “the most planned country among the European nations” as (Dutt and Costa, 1985) and no less than a “planners paradise” (Burke, 1966). 5% of Netherlands land area, is home to 36% of the population. Despite an urban density that is higher than Britain or France, this concentration is surprisingly not a result of metropolitan over-growth (Hall, 2002). Netherlands’ highly urban fabric is a result of Dutch citizens pride in the statement above. The Dutch themselves play huge roles in shaping the cities and work closely with the government bodies to realise their planning visions.

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The Dutch planning system values the public voices, and consultation, either obligatory or voluntary (Brussard, 1986) and everyone will have the opportunity to influence policies at different stages. Netherlands’ planning system is divided into three distinct layers. Each layer has explicit responsibilities that are written in the law. All three layers – National, Provincial and Municipal, have their own stand-alone procedures. This implies that all three layers of government can create their own processes given that they do not result in contradictions with the layers above. Davis (1989) drew attention that the Netherlands planning system is built upon a Napoleonic code and that all Dutch have rights. Drawing focus back to planning, if proposals meet all requirements of plans and legal guidelines, the relevant authority must accept the proposal. The Urban agglomeration of Netherlands is known as the “Ring City”, or Randstad as the locals call it. Shaped like a horseshoe, multiple cities cluster together, and yet are physically separated. Most importantly. All cities face a vast countryside, safeguarded by prior planning.

From the 1960s, Dutch planning has been characterised as “welfare state spatial planning”. However, recently, the Netherlands have progressed towards” development planning”. In line with this, the Netherlands has introduced “The National Spatial Strategy” and the “Spatial Planning Act”. The latter introduces as a shift from “development-control planning to development-led planning. The strategy “seeks to tie in with social trends rather than combating them” (Vink and van der Burg 2006). The new Spatial Planning act has been in force since 2008. It has given the Dutch increased opportunities in discussing upcoming plans. However, with this act, the Central and Provincial Governments will also have greater influence in planning decisions. This reinforces an earlier statement where Netherlands is a “planners paradise” and might be a good example for all countries to learn from.

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