This post was written by Tuna Tasan-Kok.
Exciting changes are sweeping through Dutch urban planning, heralding a new era of innovation and progress. With the eagerly anticipated new Environment and Planning Act (Omgewingswet) on the horizon, a multitude of regulations and organizational changes have already been set in motion across various levels of governance. The new Cabinet has even gone so far as to revive the Ministry of Public Housing and Spatial Planning, with ambitious plans to establish binding performance agreements with housing associations, construct flexible housing, and ease the burden on municipalities through regional agreements.
Minister de Jonge’s recent talk “Heel Nederland”, which translates to “The whole of the Netherlands” during the planning lecture at the University of Groningen emphasized the need for a comprehensive and integrated approach to Dutch urban planning. He highlighted the importance of leading principles and discussed the historical development of spatial planning in the Netherlands, including significant projects such as the creation of Randstad, Schiphol, the country’s ‘Green Heart’, and Vinex areas.
The Minister underlined the relevance of addressing demographic challenges, planetary limits, social and cultural diversity, and connections to larger international dynamics as drivers for larger spatial transformations. He called for a new national spatial policy memorandum alongside the existing National Strategy on Spatial Planning and the Environment (NOVI), promoting a more comprehensive planning approach.
The NOVI is charting a new course in Dutch urban planning by identifying and prioritizing national interests while offering guidance to local governments through an integrated approach. The Ruimtelijke Verkenning 2023 report, part of this initiative, recognizes the vital role of soil and water systems in promoting sustainable area development. It underscores the necessity of a holistic approach to address challenges such as urbanization, climate change, nature preservation, water management, and agriculture.
These sweeping changes in Dutch urban planning will have significant implications for various key issues, including affordable housing and climate change. The revival of the Ministry of Public Housing and Spatial Planning, along with the establishment of binding performance agreements with housing associations, aims to address the pressing need for affordable housing. Simultaneously, the integrated approach promoted by NOVI seeks to tackle climate change by considering environmental factors alongside urban development.
The Dutch urban planning landscape is embracing innovation and experimentation as it undergoes a seismic shift. The question arises as to whether these changes will bring back VINEX areas or pave the way for a more dynamic and responsive approach. These groundbreaking initiatives necessitate an open and honest dialogue between Dutch schools of planning, the ministry, and local governments to explore potential consequences and chart a course towards a brighter, more sustainable future.