Regional Development

OECD Rural Policy Reviews: Netherlands


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 
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OECD Rural Policy Reviews: Netherlands 2008 | OECD Free preview | Powered by Keepeek Digital Asset Management Solution

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Publication Date:
June 2008

Pages: 185


Nature values and landscapes in rural areas in the Netherlands are under pressure. This trend could be countered by giving provinces more room to manoeuvre, reform of the land market and a broader focus on nature and landscape than is currently done. This appears from the OECD Rural Policy Review of the Netherlands.


The Rural Policy Review of the Netherlands is a valuable document for policy makers, academics and other interested readers in OECD and non-OECD countries. It provides country-specific tables, boxes, maps and graphics, as well as relevant international comparisons.


Dutch and French translations of the Assessment and Recommendations are included in this volume.


Chapter 1. Profile and Challenges of Rural Netherlands

Rural areas in the Netherlands are characterised by their proximity to cities. This is not surprising considering that the Netherlands is the most urbanised country in the OECD, having the second highest population density in the OECD.

The proximity to cities determines to a large extent the challenges that rural areas in the Netherlands are facing. Economic conditions and the level of social and public services are generally good and not very different from those in urban areas. Differences between regions in the Netherlands are generally very small.

The essential difference between urban and rural areas is in land use. Land in rural areas is mainly used for agriculture, providing nature values and open landscapes – in addition to agricultural products. There is an increased pressure on rural land to satisfy demands for rural housing, economic activity, recreation, water retention and biodiversity. This has an impact on characteristic rural landscapes. Future developments will intensify these demands for rural land use.


Chapter 2. Rural Policies in the Netherlands

There are three challenges for rural policies in the Netherlands:

  • Decentralisation. Rural policy in the Netherlands has recently been decentralised. Decentralised rural policies will in principle be able to provide regionally differentiated policies. There are however concerns about national coherence of policies, provincial capacity and regional autonomy.
  • Rural land markets. The conditions on the rural land market complicate matters. Prices for agricultural land are high and the gains from land conversion can be large. Municipalities used to have a dominant position on land markets and used gains from land conversion to finance green spaces and other facilities. As municipalities have lost this dominant position, their possibilities to provide green spaces have become more limited. Although there are schemes to skim off these gains, such as red-for-green-schemes, they turn out to be inadequate. The new Land Exploitation Act is a step forward but challenges remain.
  • Nature and landscapes. Nature and landscape values have been promoted in designated areas, but there are possibilities in many other areas in which regional initiatives are crucial, to update planning concepts and to make sure that agriculture is environmentally friendly. Uptake of agri-environmental schemes are relatively limited and their effectiveness in the Netherlands could be improved.


Chapter 3. Strenghtening Rural Policies in the Netherlands

Rural policies could be strengthened with regards to the three challenges mentioned in chapter 2:

  • Decentralisation. The coherence of national rural policies could be strengthened by making explicit how different policy areas interrelate with rural policy and how different national policies have an impact on rural areas, so that these policies can better take the interests of rural areas into account. Regional autonomy should be increased: central and provincial governments should agree on the high level goals, but provinces should have more autonomy to implement these goals. Experiments and pilots should be stimulated, as well as institutional innovation to strengthen provincial capacity.
  • Rural land markets. In order to get a better grip on priorities for rural land use, more use of price signals could be made, interaction between cities and rural areas be increased and governance structures could generated where rural and urban need can be discussed. A more balanced land use could also be achieved by using part of the gains of land conversion, either by considering a more flexible local zoning system using land-bid schemes or introducing a land conversion fee.
  • Nature and landscape. Landscape and biodiversity policies could be strengthened in several ways. There should be incentives to improve biodiversity and landscapes all over the rural areas, not only in the designed areas such as the national landscapes or the national ecological networks. Principal/agent-problems in environmental schemes should be solved by setting up pilots with auctions for providing biodiversity or landscape values. In addition to that, environmental schemes might be decentralised further. Possibilities for local funding should be increased and private funding of environmental schemes should be stimulated.


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