New rules, new game?

The traditional land use plan in the Netherlands does not fit the needs of current times anymore

That was the statement behind a debate, organized by Stroom, Deltametropolis Association and the Netherlands Architecture Fund, on the 1st of March 2012. Just before the debate, an exhibition was inaugurated in Stroom, about the same theme, titled New Space for the City.

The debate and exhibition challenge the traditional technocratic planning mechanisms and state that more should be done to include small players on the real estate market and temporary projects, which nowadays run through the same approval procedures as other projects. Due to the real estate crisis in Europe, investors and other big players have stopped building, so the small and temporary could be a way out. It is suggested that some urban areas can still be developed under existing land use planning. Others, however, demand a new approach, ranging from ‘laissez-fair’ to certain laws that promote transformation of vacant office space into much needed housing. Other possibilities are City Dressing (wrapping of facades), Urban Pioneers (bottom-up community initiatives) and Unbuild City (partly demolish obsolete complexes to promote reuse). According to the architects Maarten van Tuijl and Tom Bergevoet, from the office Temp.architecture, this means that Dutch planning policy would be separated in two different spheres: traditional and flexible.

In The Hague, several areas would benefit from more flexible legislation, such as the Petroleum docks, Laakhaven and Binckhorst. A legal advisor of the city of The Hague, Maarten Engelberts, explains that already within the existing laws, ways can be found to make small housing developments possible in areas that were earlier blocked by environmental constraints. The constraints that are not actually being used, for example by a polluting factory, could be excluded from new and flexible land use plans.

Edward Stigter, of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the environment, explains the project ‘Eenvoudig Beter‘ (Simply Better) that is coming about. It includes a full review of planning law, with the objective of merging environmental and land use policy. Besides ‘simpler and better’, by the way, it also needs to be cheaper, he says. The new legal framework should, according to European guidelines, focus on places and areas, integrating all necessary aspects in one law; and it should provide maximum flexibility and opportunities for development. This new package deal is to be called ‘Omgevingsverordening’ instead of the old ‘Bestemmingsplan’.

A number of statements were then discussed by the panel, consisting of Jan Struiksma (chairman of the Institute for Building Law), Duco Stadig (H-Team), Edward Stigter (Simpler and Better, IenM), Johan Houwers (in Parliament representing VVD) and Wil van der Hoek (Director Housing, municipality of The Hague), for example:

> Organic Growth: growing from a temporary activity to a permanent one is not sufficiently supported by current land use plans

> Reviewing the Social Contract: individual rights and ample demand for legal security by citizens have made urban development too expensive and slow

Most panel members agreed that new legislation is indeed required. Only Struiksma stated that rules will not change the game, it will only lead to more delay, since each player needs to familiarize himself again with the new rules. Furthermore, what really prevents Dutch society from building, is lack of money, he said.

Lecture: the Atlanta Beltline

Thursday October 6, the Deltametropolis Association and the Department of Spatial Planning (TUDelft) organize a lecture by Ryan Gravel, on Transit Oriented Development (TOD). As urban planner he is responsible for the development of the Atlanta Beltline, a new light rail connection on an abandoned cargo track around the city. The project emerged bottom-up with help of local stakeholders. The lecture is part of our project SprintCity.

Time and Location
9:45 – 11:30h | Delft University of Technology, faculty of Architecture, Julianalaan 134, Delft – Berlagezaal 1 (ground floor) | Free admission

Debate panel
– Ryan Gravel (Perkins+Will)
– Caroline Bos (UNStudio)
– Dominic Stead (OTB)
– Paul Gerretsen (Deltametropolis Association)
– Roberto Rocco (TUDelft)

Click here to read more and register for the lecture.

Read more on the Atlanta Beltline

Retirement cities

September 2011, Susana Alves and Merten Nefs will present a paper at Environment 2.0, a conference organized by Technical University Eindhoven. The paper discusses the possibilities for Shrinking Cities to attract elderly by spatial features and services and transform their economy to focus on leisure and health care – in other words, to become successful Retirement Cities.

Retirement Cities – Analysing the opportunities and challenges of a co-existence of ageing and urban shrinkage in Europe

Merten Nefs (Deltametropolis Association, Rotterdam)
Susana Alves (Edinburgh College of Art; OPENspace Research Centre)
Ingo Zasada (Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research Institute of Socio-Economics, Müncheberg)
Dagmar Haase (Humboldt University Berlin and Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Leipzig)

Urban shrinkage has been acknowledged a major trend in many urban regions across Europe and elsewhere. Increasingly, policy makers and planners have been developing strategies to cope with these new urban development paths and their socio-spatial consequences. The authors advance the idea that active retirement migration and health tourism can be part of such strategies and ask the question: What are opportunities but also challenges for retirement migration in shrinking European cities? The authors, all from different disciplines and countries, share the idea that retirement migration and urban shrinkage in Europe are connected, bound together by the search for urban ‘quality of life’. Both processes have already been discussed extensively as separate subjects in academic literature. However, in this paper a conceptual model is proposed, which provides an approach of how to assess the suitability and identify development perspectives of shrinking cities in the context of an aging society and the in-migration of retirees. Based on two carefully selected case study regions with particular relevance of aging population – Walcheren (NL) and Leipzig (GER) – the conceptual model is exemplarily applied to investigate both quantity and quality of green open spaces and living environment, a major aspect in urban quality of life. It is argued, that shrinking cities provide valuable opportunities to adapt to the affordances of an aging population. Retirement in-migration again might represent a crucial catalyst in urban renewal for shrinking cities.

Walcheren – retirement at the North Sea coast, in a region facing shrinkage


Leipzig – reuse of urban green space in a shrunken city, for recreational use and active ageing

SprintCity – spring 2011

SprintCity (SprintStad in Dutch) is a project by the DeltaMetropolis Association, which investigates possibilities for urbanization around public transport nodes in the Randstad region (The Netherlands). The ultimate goal is to create attractive and sustainable environments for living, leisure and working, by optimizing the use of already existing rail infrastructure. For more information on this project, click here (English).

Station on railway corridor in SprintCity

In the first semester of 2011, SprintCity has been busy:
– A new version of serious game SprintStad was launched (version 1.1); the game simulates spatial developments around trains stations until the year 2030, and was played with several stakeholders
– Presentations were given at KEI VRJRS-party, Ruimteconferentie (PBL) and soon at InfraTrends and Hogeschool Rotterdam
– An article was published in Agora Magazine (Dutch-Flemish magazine for spatial planning), describing the use of serious game SprintStad in practice
– A FactSheet was published, demonstrating potential of smaller railway stations along rail corridors included in the national plan for high-frequency train service, to be implemented until 2030
– New project partners and investors were found
Update SprintStad #3 was published, featuring news, research results and international context; the Update can be downloaded here

Simulation game session, in Amersfoort

Urban density survey of international station areas

Read more: SprintCity goes China

Spatial impact of roads

April 2011, researcher Henar Salas Olmedo obtained her PhD title in Geography and Spatial Planning at the University of Cantabria, Santander (Spain). Her thesis – THE SPATIAL IMPACT OF ROADS – discusses land use changes around heavy road infrastructure and was supervised by Dra. Soledad Nogués. Merten Nefs was asked to review and comment the thesis as external expert.

“Nowadays, transport has become an essential activity is our society. The role transport plays has such an importance that it is frequently named as a basic factor to generate
development. This document deals specifically with the effects of highways on the spatial pattern of population, firms and the hierarchy of settlements in relatively peripheral areas in the EU context, that is, not large metropolitan areas but subregional areas with some transport infrastructures with a low level of dynamism. […]
Two study areas are compared: Doncaster Metropolitan Borough, which contains two motorway crossings, and the Lincoln Policy Area, which is a crossroads for several trunk  roads. The comparative analysis and diagnosis of these areas led to some significant conclusions: the motorway-connected area shows a greater dispersion of industrial and service than residential land uses; the dispersion of residential areas in the trunk-road area starts later but with a similar, or even more intense, trend; the primate city is more and more dominant in the trunk-road area, whereas in the motorway-connected area intermediate towns are increasing their functions; and commuting flows are relatively more numerous, although shorter and spatially more concentrated, in the trunk-road area.”