Land policy discretion in times of economic downturn: How local authorities adapt to a new reality

Alexander K. Woestenburg*, Erwin van der Krabben, Tejo J.M. Spit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


This paper looks at the consequences of the recent property market boom-bust cycle from the planners’ perspective. It takes the case of Dutch local governments and, in particular, the instrument of public land development. The analysis focusses on the question whether the economic downturn has given rise to a reconsideration of the intertwinement of public and private roles inherent to public land development. The paper sheds light on the formal changes in land management strategies in the recent years and asks whether these formal institutional changes result in less controversial land management, in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, fairness and democratic legitimation. It concludes that, although at first sight the findings suggest a paradigm shift in Dutch land management strategies, municipalities have not sorted out robust new alternatives. Public land development creates serious path dependencies and current changes in the regulatory space of land management are mostly pragmatic and show lots of traces of the old model. If local authorities keep pursuing their active, entrepreneurial, involvement in the land market in an ad-hoc manner, they face challenges regarding how to keep control over the discretionary power. It raises serious new dilemmas on transparency and predictability of municipal behaviour. There is a risk of ending up in a patchwork situation where different regulatory aspects are changed inconsistently.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)801-810
Number of pages10
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • Institutional change
  • Land management
  • Local government
  • Public land development


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