MASTER THESIS, Policies against urban sprawl in the changing Dutch planning context

1 augustus 2008

This master thesis situates itself in the wider urban sprawl debate that has recently received an increased attention from the European Union, and also in the ongoing debate concerning the changing Dutch planning context. This work builds a bridge between these two debates by examining the impacts that the major Dutch contextual changes have on the local and regional fight against urban sprawl. Moreover, it aims to increase the general understanding of the notion of compactness and to determine which local policies and strategies can be used by the Dutch municipalities to retain their compactness. To achieve these goals, this research focuses on the city of Groningen.

Firstly, the research discusses the notion of ‘compact city’ by measuring the density gradient of Groningen and by evaluating ten compactness criteria. The analysis of this study proves that Groningen should not be called a compact city because of its population/job density figures, but rather for the combination of several other factors characterising
the city.
Secondly, this research analyses why Groningen has chosen to follow a new urbanisation strategy based on intensification/revitalisation on the one hand, and on diversification/extension on the other hand. This part explains why growth does not necessarily go against the principles of the compact city strategy, and highlights the risks for following a two-sided strategy.
The final part of the empirical study concerns the local impacts of the changing planning contexts. It determines in which types of policies against sprawl the new region Groningen-Assen innovates, discusses of the new area-development projects and pins down the risks that they can represent for public authorities and other projects, and finally looks into the effects of land speculations in Groningen.