Advisory council argues for modernised land policy

22 June 2017 – The Dutch Government aims to harmonise land policy legislation in a Supplementary Act on Land Ownership. This act will be crucial in tackling a number of major challenges, such as the energy transition, climate adaptation and transforming city regions and areas of economic and demographic decline. In its report ‘Land for Development’, published today, the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli) argues for a modernised land policy and makes eight recommendations.

Modernise as well as harmonise

In the spirit of the Environment and Planning Act, the Dutch government aims to harmonise, integrate and simplify the land policy regulations that are currently scattered across various pieces of legislation. The Council believes that the government should take this a step further. Planning and environmental policy will be a key vehicle for making a number of major transitions, and to do that the land policy toolbox will have to be modernised.

Eight recommendations for a modernised land policy

  1. Make the land policy instruments more compatible with the objectives of the Environment and Planning Act
    The Council recommends that land policy instruments, such as expropriation and pre-emption right, can also be used in pursuit of environmental quality objectives.
  2. Provide instruments for a facilitating land policy
    Municipalities can choose to manage area development projects themselves or bring in private parties (e.g. housing associations, healthcare providers, developers and building cooperatives) and facilitate the development process. The Council recommends that private parties should also be given the opportunity to deploy land policy instruments themselves, under certain conditions.
  3. Link the right to develop to an obligation to develop
    When plans for a new development have been adopted by the municipal government, landowners have the right to carry out the development themselves. The Council recommends making this right to develop conditional upon completing the development by a specified date.
  4. Speed up the expropriation procedure
    In the current situation, expropriation procedures often drag on unduly and those involved are kept in the dark about the expropriation and the amount of compensation for far too long. The Council recommends giving landowners a legal right to receive a reasonable offer from the expropriating party within a fixed period, backed by a right of appeal directly to the Council of State, with a time limit on the decision.
  5. Drop the proposed urban land readjustment regulations
    Urban land readjustment is when private parties agree among themselves to resubdivide their land and property. The Council believes the proposed regulations for urban land readjustment will have insufficient additional benefit due to their voluntary nature and so they can be scrapped
  6. Expand and simplify the possibilities for cost recovery
    The Council puts forward a number of proposals for simplifying the procedures for recovering the costs of land development from the financial beneficiaries. Moreover, the Council does not support the proposal in the Supplementary Act to give municipal councils the option of waiving cost recovery.
  7. Broaden the business case
    Sitting owners and neighbouring residents and businesses who profit from new area developments are not required to make a payment towards the development costs. The Council thinks this is unreasonable and argues for a value capturing regulation to permit the imposition of a tax on future value increases resulting from public decisions or actions.
  8. Provide instruments for regional cooperation and redistribution of development gains
    Many development programmes are regional in scale. Mechanisms for redistributing development gains at the regional level, such as from suburban municipalities to a central city in a metropolitan region, have proved to be very tricky in practice. The Council therefore argues for a statutory regulation for redistributing development gains between municipalities that work together on a regional development programme.