Duurzaamheid als planningsopgave : gebiedsgerichte afstemming tussen de ruimtelijke ordening, het milieubeleid en het waterhuishoudkundig beleid voor het landelijk gebied

M. van der Vlist

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU



Since the publication of 'Our Common Future' (1987) by the World Commission on Environment and Development, sustainability or sustainable development has become one of the most important aims of environmental policy throughout the world. But it has proved difficult to work out in a definition, in policy targets and in policy instruments. There are many definitions of sustainability for rural and urban regions, as well as for activities such as agriculture, nature conservation, outdoor recreation and water resource management; there seems to be no need for yet another.

In this thesis, sustainability is defined as a task of planning. The central topic is, therefore, how sustainability is defined in planning, practice and implemented in plans. But what are planning practices lid what are plans? To answer these questions an analytical tool was developed by looking for a definition of Planning that can accommodate new developments in the relation between Dutch government and society. Inspired by Friedmann planning is defined in this thesis as an attempt to link knowledge to action in the public domain; this was elaborated for land use planning in Dutch rural areas. A distinction is made between three task: rural development, steering and planning. The first concerns the knowledge about the physical environment and the action (design and evaluation) taken to achieve the desired situation in the physical environment. The second involves transforming the visions of private actors and the concepts of policy makers into claims on the physical environment, so that it can be decided which claims are legitimate and feasible in relation to development. The third involves the making a plan by organizing the interaction between the development and the steering tasks within the framework of political institutions and regulations. It can be defined in different ways because the content of the tasks can vary. In this thesis, the term 'planning style' is used to describe this. A distinction is made between four such styles: planning as reform, planning as policy analysis, planning as a learning process and planning as exchange process. These styles are elaborated for the tasks of steering and of development, the definition of the plan and the relation between design and implementation

Table I Styles of planning

Source: this theses table 2.4

Three planning systems deal with the physical environment in the Netherlands: spatial planning, environmental planning and water management They have a common goal: to achieve a sustainable physical environment.

But their definitions of the tasks of steering and development differ, as do their planning traditions. These differences are not a problem as long as the planning systems have distinct planning practices. However, intensive land use in the rural areas (agriculture, bulb growing and horticulture) and a high population density is causing the planning practices to converge, bringing about the need for coordination and integration of planning practices and their concepts.

Central topic

This thesis is a contribution to the debate about the opportunities and likelihood of coordinating and integrating of the existing planning traditions, embodied in the planning systems, into a new planning practice directed to sustainable development in Dutch rural areas. The central topic is to clarify the differences between the concepts of steering and the concepts of development and to construct a model for assessing and designing of integrated planning practices. To this end, the following research questions are posed:
1. what are the features of the planning systems?
2. what are the dominant concepts about the physical environment?
3. what are the dominant concepts of steering in relation to the physical environment?
4. who are the adressees of these planning systems?
5. what conditions apply to the integrated planning practices and what are the main aspects for assessing existing planning practices?
6. what conclusions can be drawn about the task of planning in the future and the usefulness of the evalution model?


Several methods were used to answer these questions. To detect the features of the planning systems the literature was studied, planning practices were evaluated and interviews were conducted. In an attempt to find possible connections between the dominant concepts of development an analysis was done of the water system approach (Ministerie Verkeer en Waterstaat, 1985), the 'environmental utilisztion space' (Opschoor, 1990) and the model of the spatial organization (Kleefmann, 1990), drawing on scientific literature and documents produced by the Dutch government. The same procedure was followed for the dominant concepts of steering: the classic model, the network model and the market model (Koppenjan et al. 1993) in relation to the adressees: the 'active citizen' in spatial planning, the 'target group' in environmental planning and the 'user of the land' in (regional) water management. A model based on these analyses was built for assessing and designing of integrated planning practices.

Model for assessment and design

The relation between Dutch government and society has changed in the last decade and forms of network steering are becoming more important. As a result integrated planning practices can only succeed when there is a need to cope with diffuse pollution and a change in behaviour. Three changes have come about a) private actors are participating in the planning process, b) the existing concepts of development and steering are being transformed into wholly of partically new concepts and c) the plan is now a joint product containing a vision of how the region should develop. These aspects are elaborated in Table 11. In short, the planning process ought to have the signature of two styles: planning as learning process and/or planning as exchange process. Planning as policy analysis and planning as reform are less suitable.

Table II. Aspects for assessing and designing planning practices

Source: this thesis table 9.3


A wide range of cases is needed in order to analyse the state of the art of integrated planning practices in the Netherlands. The cases were selected according to the following criteria. The plans had to express the willingness of government (national, provincial or local) to construct integrated planning practices. The selection had to contain plans of all three tiers government. The plans had to embody a relation between at least two concepts of development and a change in the concept of steering, compared with the pre- plan situation. Both regular and non-regular plans had to be included. This resulted in the following cases being selected (Table Ill):

The National Memorandum on Environmental Policy II (Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and Environment, 1993); The Management Plan for the Waters of national importance (Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, 1992); especially for the IJsselmeergebied (Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, 1991), North Sea (Ministry of Traffic and Water Management, 1991) and the Rijntakken (Ministry of Transport, Public Work and Water Management, 1994); The Ammonia Reduction Plans for Southeast Friesland (forthcoming) and the Gelder Valley (1994); The coordination and integration between the Water Management Plan, the Environmental Policy Plan and the Spatial Plan of Gelderland Province (Provincie Gelderland, 1996abc); The vision for the Regge river basin (Goossensen et al., 1997).In cases one, two and three, seven plans were analysed and assessed. Cases four and five differ because the researcher participated in the planning processes. As a result the aspect of the design of integrated planning practices received more emphasis; an insider's assessment.

Table III Cases of integrated planning practices


The results of the assessment have been compiled in Table IV. This overview shows that some planning practices can be classified as integrated: the Ammonia Reduction Plans and the vision for the Regge river basin. In the Ammonia Reduction Plans a combination of spatial zoning and a bulb (marketable emission rights) for the reduction of ammonia creates a new balance between agricultural development and protection of the nature conservation areas. The vision on the Regge river basin combines spatial hydrological zoning and the water management area defined as a bulb in which the problems of eutrophication and the fall in hydraulic head can be solved. In both planning practices, the participation of private actors is important in the discussion about the vision and the relation between this joint vision and the opportunities for fitting this in with the evryday practices of the private actors.

Conclusions and discussion

1. The three planning systems, current in the Netherlands today each have their own signature. In the last decade the development task has changed as a result of new insights into the relation between the components of the physical environment. The task of steering has changed too, as a result of a changing relation between Dutch government and society. The planning systems have reacted differently to these changes. The system of spatial planning is evolving from planning as policy analysis into planning as a learning process; environmental planning is evolving from planning as reform to planning as exchange process; water management is evolving from planning as reform to planning as policy analysis. The modernisation of the systems is proceeding in different directions.

2. Interesting experiments are going on in Dutch planning practice in the countryside, where private and public actors are looking for a practical definition of sustainable development. It can be concluded that integrated planning practices can only succeed when public and private actors are able to achieve a creative combination of elements of the concepts of development and the concepts of steering and when this combination is based on clear relation between the steering and development task.

3. The distinction between the planning task, the development task and the steering task and the combination in different styles of planning turns out to be a promising analytical tool for analysing planning practices with regard to the physical environment. But despite this there is a need for elaboration in more detail.

Original languageDutch
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Kleefmann, F., Promotor, External person
Award date27 Feb 1998
Place of PublicationS.l.
Print ISBNs9789054858140
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • urban planning
  • physical planning
  • research
  • government policy
  • environmental policy
  • environmental legislation
  • air pollution
  • soil pollution
  • water pollution
  • nature conservation
  • policy
  • management
  • water policy
  • waterways
  • water management
  • water resources
  • rural planning
  • rural development
  • land use
  • sustainability
  • natural resources
  • resource utilization
  • protection
  • rehabilitation
  • hydrology
  • Netherlands

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