A Dutch perspective on urban growth boundaries: From containing to stimulating growth

Leonie Janssen-Jansen*, Wendy Tan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Within international planning educational circles, the Netherlands has long been held up as an exemplar of effective national and regional land use planning practices. Well-known examples are the water management policies (van der Cammen and de Klerk 2012). The clearly defined administrative hierarchies, the policy consistency, and the management of the land resource with governmental controls in planning have been praised in planning literature. The Dutch planning system is seen as a great example for other countries, just as Sullivan’s Portland example (Bontje 2003; Fainstein 2005). The urban growth boundary (UGB) of the Regional Framework Plan of Portland is likewise one of the most outstanding elements of the land use planning system in State of Oregon. This is an example of an instrument accompanied by many other complementary ordinances, regulations, and rules that together result in a desired planning outcome. The UGB is therefore often compared to national planning instruments in the Netherlands intent on enforcing a strict boundary between the urban and the rural. In the Netherlands, this divide has always been a keystone concept of the land use planning system, which is to keep as much open space ‘open’ as possible, while concurrently address the need for expansion and growth by ensuring enough land for residential development in a context of land scarcity in the upcoming decades. This is a similar situation to Portland where the growth necessary for the next 20 years needs to be balanced by the geographical constraints of the nature and agricultural areas. Although the regional UGB enjoys statutory status in Portland, regional coordination is considered an informal norm within the Netherlands. For example, certain provinces keep to an 80–20 rule, whereby the majority of new developments should take place within existing urban contours. The regional focus of Portland’s planning system is relevant for international planners as most land use issues tend to cross administrative borders in nature and involve more than a single government level. On the surface, the Dutch planning system might not have much to offer as compared to Portland as the legal force is maintained mostly at the local level in the form of municipal land use plans (Needham 2016). Although the 2008 revision of the planning law (WRO 2008) does enable regional and inter-municipal zoning plans 138that can be brought forward by multiple municipalities or proposed by the Dutch regional government – the province – this instrument has been hardly implemented. From the provincial perspective, ‘overthrowing’ municipalities is politically not popular; municipalities – and their governors – focus on the land in their municipality as they are accountable for planning within the municipality, not outside.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInstruments of Land Policy
Subtitle of host publicationDealing with Scarcity of Land
PublisherTaylor and Francis
ISBN (Electronic)9781315511658
ISBN (Print)9781138201514
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2018

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