(January 2010) National policies in decentralised spatial planning

National policies in decentralised spatial planning image

Introduction of PhD project

In the Netherlands, the national government started a major decentralisation scheme in spatial planning for rural areas. With the introduction of the Investeringsbudget Landelijk Gebied (ILG, Investment fund for rural areas) in 2007 the national government delegated the implementation of national policies to the provinces. This new steering model combines decentralisation with a remaining influence of national policies. Other European countries have developed new spatial planning systems with a similar combination of decentralisation on the one hand and centralisation on the other.

The main objective of the PhD research is to gain insight in how spatial planning can be organised to deal with these two opposite movements. Therefore three countries with new spatial planning systems will be studied, with a strong focus on how these new spatial planning systems take effect in practice. The study has a central case study design, in which two mirror cases, Denmark and England will be used to better understand the central case of the Netherlands. The research is regarded as an iterative process in which after each stage of the project the findings of earlier stages and the research questions of the next are critically reassessed.

The paper will present some preliminary results of the ongoing PhD project, focussing on the Dutch case.

Divergence of rural spatial planning systems in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands the main reason for decentralisation of rural spatial development is the shift towards a more integral and area specific approach. It is believed that the provinces can be more efficient in developing the countryside as they are closer to the areas and stakeholders, and therefore have a better insight in the specific needs and possibilities of the area. Decentralisation should give the provinces the possibility to adapt their policy and planning system to their specific situation. It can therefore be expected that the introduction of ILG will lead to a divergence in both policy and planning systems of spatial planning for rural areas. This paper will explore this assumption. It will describe what the range of different approaches of the provinces is, and based on what reasons the differences evolved. It will also explore if and how the national government, which still has an important role in rural spatial planning in the Netherlands, facilitates the development of different approaches in practice.

This case study started with desk research on policy documents of all 12 provinces, and was then continued with semi structured interviews with officials from a cross section of these 12 provinces and open interviews with the officials of the ministry of agriculture, who is the national counterpart of the provinces.