Dutch Spatial Planning: From Implicit Towards Explicit Sustainable Urban Development

Since the 1960’s the containment of urban growth and the maintenance of a certain level of concentration within the urban pattern are policy goals In the Netherlands. With hindsight this so-called ‘concentrated deconcentration’ can be understood as an implicit strategy towards sustainable urban development. The explicit discussion on sustainable development that started around 1987 focused strongly on environmental issues, and lead amongst others to environmental standards.

More recently urban development strategies are more explicitly focused on sustainable development using the well-known frame of people, planet and profit. Together with this shift of focus the future – or the long term – became a more intrinsic part of the policy formation process. The triple-P frame of reference has been used for a strategic study for the Randstad Area for the period 2020-2040 currently undertaken. Striking in this study is that with the shift of focus towards triple-P the environmental issues have disappeared from the spatial agenda. Using the Randstad case as a pièce de résistance we will discuss the continuities and discontinuities in the ways of understanding of and intervening in sustainable urban development in the Netherlands.