The ineffectiveness of landscape policy in the Netherlands: causes and perspectives
With its recent policy document on spatial planning, the Dutch government has abandoned landscape policy completely. The national government is now leaving it to the provincial and municipal authorities to decide whether or not to formulate policies to conserve or develop landscape quality.
Looking back, we must conclude that landscape policy in the Netherlands has never been very effective, for although quite a lot of policy was developed, hardly any of it was implemented (Janssen et al. 2007; Kuiper et al. 2008). Policy intentions have been rapidly changing, landscape categories were introduced and abandoned and intentions were not supported with sufficient legislation or funding.
By contrast, nature policy in the Netherlands has been relatively successful. So what made landscape policy so ineffective? Both nature and landscape were adopted as national policies as a result of the societal debate about the radical changes to the Dutch landscape caused by urbanisation, land reclamation and land consolidation in the first half of the twentieth century (Gorter 1986; Van der Windt 1995). This raises the question of whether there are differences between the two types of policy that might explain the differences in their effectiveness, and if so, what lessons can be learned for a more effective landscape policy.
We conclude that there are relevant differences between nature and landscape that may explain this difference in the effectiveness of the respective policies. Landscape policy focuses on considerably larger areas than nature policy. Even when focusing on the more valuable parts of the landscape, the areas involved are huge. Therefore, land acquisition by governmental or non-governmental organisations, as is usual in nature policy in the Netherlands, is not an option.
Valuable cultural landscapes will therefore always be owned and managed by a large and diverse group of owners and land users who try to use the land for a variety of functions, like food production, transport, housing or business. Multifunctionality is after all one of the main characteristics of cultural landscapes. Change is another characteristic because living cultural landscapes will continuously be altered to meet changing land use demands (Klijn & Veeneklaas 2007; Bloemers 2010; Renes 2011). As a consequence, conservation aims that are taken for granted in nature reserves will create friction in cultural landscapes (Dirkx 2003; Dirkx 2007). The inevitability of change on the one hand and attempts to meet conservation aims on the other leads to a struggle that is evident in many landscape policy documents (Kuiper et al. 2004; Van der Valk 2010).
Landscape policy using the sectoral approach that has dominated this field of policy until now turns out to be a mission impossible. A broader approach in which landscape policy is assimilated into other policy fields, like agriculture or spatial planning, might be much more effective.
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