Just think of the wild Wadden area, panoramic views of Mills and tulips, urban planning, architecture and nature. All that beauty is under pressure. After all, the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Space is needed for living, working, nature, recreation and mobility.

Integral area development based on balancing the various interests is therefore essential. More than ever before the provincial governments and municipalities have the freedom to decide how to structure their regions. All new spatial plans of the central government, provincial governments and municipalities can be viewed at Ruimtelijkeplannen.nl.

Quality of life

Most people in the Netherlands live in close proximity to each other in towns and cities. As a consequence, a lot of pressure is placed on the quality of life locally. For example, problems can arise due to environmental influences, and social safety may come under pressure. In order to maintain the good quality of the living environment, the government is working on the restructuring of neighbourhoods and the reduction of air pollution and noise pollution in the living environment. It is also working on making the streets safer and on providing sufficient greenery. In the Livability Barometer [Leefbaarometer] you can find information about the quality of life in districts and neighbourhoods.

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Living Environment and health

The way the residential environment is organised affects the health of residents. Attractive and safe cycling and walking routes, parks and play areas encourage people to exercise. In addition, spreading out facilities such as schools and shops makes public space attractive for social activities. Together this is referred to as integral health policy. It requires cooperation between the health, environment, spatial planning and traffic policy departments at national, provincial and local levels.

When determining how the space is structured, economic and social interests also play a particular role, alongside health. What is more, health aspects may conflict when making a certain choice. For example, it is perfectly possible that a designated location for a playground in a neighbourhood is, in fact, a place with relatively poor air quality or noise pollution for the local residents. A proper assessment and weighing up of the health consequences of spatial interventions is therefore important.

Assessing the health consequences of spatial plans

The government believes it is important that the health consequences of spatial interventions are properly assessed beforehand and coordinated with the initiators. This is laid down in the Environmental and Planning Act [Omgevingswet]. The Healthy living environment guide [Gids gezonde leefomgeving] can help you organise the spatial area in a healthy way and includes a number of practical examples. You can find even more practical examples on how to organise your living environment in a healthier way in the Healthy Design Guide [GezondOntwerpWijzer].

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Spatial Planning Act and the Environmental and Planning Act

The Spatial Planning Act [Wet ruimtelijke ordening] (Wro) is an important law in the context of spatial decision-making. The law simplifies the allocation of roles between the central government, the provincial governments and the municipalities. The Wro is the instrument for distributing spatial requirements such as residential, working, recreation, mobility, water and nature on the basis of a coherent approach.

Using the Order in Council for Space [Algemene Maatregel van Bestuur Ruimte] (AMvB) the central government is able to safeguard national interests in the zoning plans of the municipalities and the structural visions of the provincial governments. One example is space for large rivers. The Wro also facilitates faster decision-making. Other laws related to spatial planning are the Wabo (Environmental Permitting (General Provisions) Act [Wet algemene bepalingen omgevingsrecht]) and the Transport Infrastructure (Planning Procedures) Act [Tracéwet]. The government is going to replace the Wro and various other laws with the Environmental and Planning Act [Omgevingswet]. This law will make the taking of decisions on spatial projects faster and simpler.

Structural vision

The National Policy Strategy for Infrastructure and Spatial Planning [Structuurvisie Infrastructuur en Ruimte] (SVIR) contains the central government's plans on space and mobility in 2040. For example the government describes in the Structural Vision which infrastructure projects they want to invest in in the coming years as well as how the existing infrastructure can be used more effectively. The plans give the provincial and municipal governments more room to manoeuvre in the field of spatial planning.

Digital spatial plans

According to the Wro all spatial plans are to be digitised. All new spatial plans of the central government, provincial governments and municipalities can be viewed at Ruimtelijkeplannen.nl.

MIRT Projects map

The MIRT Projects map (Multi-year programme for Infrastructure, Space and Transport) is part of the MIRT Projects book that provides an insight into the background, the state of affairs and the planning of the physical spatial state projects and programmes. Click a project in the map for more information.

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What can citizens do?

Anyone who wants to build or make alterations needs a variety of permits. In order to make it easy for citizens and companies, the permits for building, living, listed buildings, spatial area, nature and the environment have been combined into a single All-in-one Permit for Physical Aspects. You can apply for this permit digitally via The Online Environmental Desk [Omgevingsloket online].

What can professionals do?

There are all kinds of ways in which your living environment can be organised (more) healthily. If you need some inspiration, you should check the Healthy living environment guide [Gids gezonde leefomgeving] or the Healthy Design Guide [GezondOntwerpWijzer].

edited January 8th 2018