The spatial transformation of the Netherlands 1988-2015


  • Ries van der Wouden The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL)



The release of the Fourth Policy Document on Spatial Planning in 1988 was the start of a new and highly dynamic age of spatial development in The Netherlands. The policy document itself embodied a major reorientation of the national spatial policy strategy. Development of the economy and infrastructure became the new goals of spatial policy, and thereby replaced the focus upon the public housing sector of the years before. The national airport Schiphol and the port of Rotterdam both expanded and became important focal points for the Dutch economy, new transport infrastructure including High Speed Railway was planned. In the cities, dilapidated districts were transformed into new urban residential areas and new suburban districts were built close to the cities. In the countryside many projects were started in order to transform agrarian land into ‘new nature’. On top of this, the Dutch spatial planning system itself faced a partial ‘regime shift’. Spatial development projects became more market-based instead of financed by public resources. But at the same time, the national government kept its central position in the planning system. Only fifteen years later, at the beginning of the new millennium, decentralization of spatial planning towards regional and local government became a major trend.

This paper will focus upon the spatial transformation of the Netherlands during the 25 years after the release of the Fourth Policy Document on spatial planning. In order to assess the influence of the national spatial policy, I will give a brief review of the Fourth Policy Document. But the changes in the spatial policy strategy of the Fourth Policy Document did not came out of the blue. They were both result of and response to political and economic trends. Therefore, I will start with two major and interrelated trends: the urban crisis and globalization.


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How to Cite

van der Wouden, R. (2017). The spatial transformation of the Netherlands 1988-2015. International Planning History Society Proceedings, 17(6), 13–23.