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Sustainable Urban Development and the Challenge of Policy Integration: An Assessment of Planning Tools for Integrating Spatial and Environmental Planning in the Netherlands

Hens Runhaar, Peter P J Driessen and Laila Soer
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Laila Soer: BMD Advies Rijndelta, Ebweg 18, 2991 LT Barendrecht, The Netherlands

Environment and Planning B, 2009, vol. 36, issue 3, 417-431

Abstract: Over the last 10–15 years, urban planners in the Netherlands have been given more policy space for defining area-specific environmental ambitions, in an attempt to promote further the integration of environmental and urban planning. This increased policy space has offered new opportunities, but also poses new challenges for urban planners. Urban planners often appear to struggle with the issue of how to come to an operationalization of area-specific urban environmental quality. Various planning tools exist that can assist planners with these tasks. In this paper we distinguish between ‘substance-oriented’ tools such as environmental impact assessments and ‘process-oriented’ tools that facilitate interaction and consensus building among planners and stakeholders. Recently, in the Netherlands, a distinct type of ‘hybrid’ planning tool has been developed specifically for defining area-based environmental ambitions in spatial plans, coupled with the development of measures for attaining these ambitions. However, little research has been conducted into how these planning tools perform in practice and how this can be understood, especially in comparison with more traditional ‘substance-oriented’ and ‘process-oriented’ planning tools. In this paper we assess the added value of the new hybrid tools on the basis of an analysis of three exemplary case studies. Although the tools seem to be helpful in assisting urban planners to better integration of environmental and spatial planning, there are some aspects that deserve more attention, including the identification of financial consequences of environmental ambitions, and guidelines for dealing with controversies. Future research is recommended into the influence of the hybrid tools on their sociopolitical contexts, their performance in comparison with other hybrid planning tools, and their effective design.

Date: 2009
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