Shortage of space in the Netherlands: minister will once again have a say in decisions

The national government will once again interfere in the planning of the Netherlands. Since 2001, that task has been the responsibility of provinces and municipalities. But now that space is becoming scarcer, and at the same time new tasks are being added, such as the energy transition, the government feels it is time to start pulling the strings again.

According to planners, the challenges facing the Netherlands are major. Hundreds of thousands of new homes, windmills, solar meadows, water basins and plans to make agriculture more sustainable, all take up a lot of space. If all the growth plans remain as they are now conceived, according to planners, 10% more space will soon be needed. Space that does not actually exist, because every part of the Netherlands is already being used. So choices have to be made.

According to the experts, by 2050 the Netherlands will already be far beyond the bounds of available space:

Minister Ollongren of the Interior now wants to tackle the problem with a National Environmental Vision. In it she writes how the national government will once again focus more emphatically on the organisation of the Netherlands.

Until the turn of the century, that was normal. Take, for example, the large vinex notes, in which the Cabinet regularly designated locations for large-scale housing construction. Leidsche Rijn near Utrecht is one such vinex location. But after 2000, the conviction that the Netherlands was finished grew and provinces and municipalities were given the lead in putting the finishing touches to it.

In the meantime, it appears that the world is not standing still and our country is facing major new challenges, Minister Ollongren knows. “Spatial planning was somewhat too decentralised after the major structural visions at the end of the last century. Now there is again a need for steering from The Hague

No solar meadows

Ollongren attaches the greatest importance to housing. Until 2030, the plan is to build roughly one million homes to make up for the huge shortage. There are plenty of plans, but due to disagreements and conflicts of interest, the pace is slow.

The same goes for the energy transition: hardly anyone wants a windmill in their backyard and ecologists object to solar meadows. With the new environmental vision, the government wants to give the regions handles to make decisions and speed up the pace. Ollongren: “Every region needs to build more houses. Do that in places that are easily accessible and where there is also work. Dont build solar meadows, but place solar panels on roofs as much as possible. Lets build windmills at sea as much as possible

Some provinces are not so happy with the government role that the Minister is now taking on. The province of Utrecht, for example, is working on its own environmental vision for after 2030. Huib van Essen, Provincial Executive member: “We are doing this together with the national government; we desperately need that support in the construction of new houses. But a minister who points out locations on a map from an office in The Hague is going to slow down housing construction. That is not embedded in local considerations”

Minister for Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment

Planners, on the other hand, argued in favour of more national control. Professor of area development at TU Delft Co Verdaas: “Municipalities and provinces have too limited a view; we also have to take into account, for example, the market and the business community. Thats why more control is needed for long-term projects. This does not mean that the government should take over the decision-making, but it must be able to make choices if the province fails to come to a decision and plans stagnate as a result”

In order to anchor this governing role, Verdaas advocates the return of a coordinating Minister of Spatial Planning. He is supported in this by the Lower House of Parliament. At the beginning of March, the House of Representatives adopted two motions from the Dutch Labour Party and the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) which also called for the return of a Ministry of Public Housing.