In this paper we reflect on the relationship between planning and law. We analyse the Dutch interpretation and implementation of the European Union Habitats and Birds Directives by investigating the practices of delineation of protected areas. These directives provide a legislative framework for the designation of protected sites as well as for decision making about social and economic activities that might have negative effects on the conservation objectives. The formal boundaries of the protected area can have legal, political, and economic consequences and are therefore the subject of much debate. Using Niklas Luhmann’s social systems theory, we analyse the debates concerning delineation and the potential for planning to reduce tensions and balance interests. It is argued that the irreducible differences between the economic, political, and legal perspectives, in combination with the Dutch path of a legalistic interpretation of EU directives, have produced a situation in which the role of planning is reduced and new forms of planning are hard to implement.
- nature conservation