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Expanding communities mean less green space

The Netherlands is becoming more crowded. A green and open landscape is increasingly regarded as a leisure space for urban dwellers, and people are keen to retain it.

Researcher Terry van Dijk of Wageningen University and Research Centre analysed the actions by concerned citizens in five green areas under threat of urbanisation.

He discovered, among other things, that active citizens are relatively well educated and that larger cities are less responsive to civil initiatives.

Efforts to retain the landscape were recorded from the Bloemendaler polder, the Hoekse Waard, the Mastenbroek polder, Moerdijk and Vleuten-De Meern in order to determine the systemic obstacles encountered. Van Dijk found that it was not the formal system of regional planning (the laws and regulations) that determined whether concerned citizens were successful in their opposition to urbanisation.

Instead, the political system is the filter that determines whether concerns about the landscape can lead to the abandonment of proposed urbanisation projects. Citizens who take the initiative were found not to await opportunities for inquiries, but to use local and regional politics to get their issue on the agenda.

The continuing expansion of municipalities in the Netherlands is leading to a ‘dilution’ of protesting citizens in increasingly larger electorates, where protesters’ voices become weaker. At the same time, large municipalities tend to attract building projects rather than reject them. Green space residing under multiple municipal territories is harder to defend because none of the surrounding cities feels responsible.

Another conclusion from Van Dijk’s study was that municipalities do not receive financial incentives to retain open landscape – quite the contrary. And, the more densely populated an area, the more protests there are against disappearing green space. A survey on civil initiatives from the TV programme Landroof also showed that concerned citizens are relatively well educated and often have a personal stake in the areas concerned.

The project entitled 'Towards more effective landscape planning in an emerging metropolis' is part of the larger research programme 'Reinventing Landscape Planning in MetroLand', financed by the NWO programme GaMON.

Kim van den Wijngaard | alfa
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