Government: Develop a coherent vision for the future of the Netherlands
On 5 October the Dutch government sent the ‘Government Position Paper’, its proposals for the draft National Environment and Planning Strategy (Nationale Omgevingsvisie: NOVI), to the House of Representatives. That paper, which is an intermediary step in the preparation of the National Environment and Planning Strategy, does not present a coherent vision for the future of the Netherlands. Moreover, several important issues are ignored altogether. Questions such as ‘How can we shape the economy for sustainable growth?’ or ‘What are the environmental conditions for the future operation of the aviation industry in the Netherlands?’ remain unanswered. The Council is of the opinion that such important questions must be addressed in the Strategy, otherwise the choices to be made on key issues like these – choices which ought to be articulated in the Strategy – will simply be sidelined.
Government: Break down the departmental silo mentality
The National Environment and Planning Strategy, or NOVI, is the government’s core policy instrument in the new system of environmental and planning law. The Environment and Planning Act takes an integrative approach to physical environmental and development challenges. The Council therefore sees the NOVI as a litmus test for working with the new environmental and planning policy. No fewer than nine ministries are involved in policy for the physical environment, but the Council sees too few signs of these departments working together in a unified fashion as intended. The Council argues for a stronger political steer from the government to break down the compartmentalisation and silo mentality in the civil service.
Public authorities: Work together at the regional level
In recent years a great deal of planning and environmental policy has been decentralised and national government is delegating a growing number of tasks to the region, often without providing any additional budget. The Council believes that this approach is no longer responsible as far as the major challenges facing the country are concerned: the energy transition, adaptation to the changing climate, establishing a circular economy and closed-loop agriculture, and a coordinated approach to urban development and transport planning. National, provincial and local government must work more closely together on these issues. Because all these environmental and development challenges converge at the regional scale, the Council feels that the national government should invest more in the regions, for example by making more staff available. Moreover, the government should treat the thirty or so regions in the same way and abandon its selective policy of designating ‘spatial perspective areas’. The Council proposes that the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations should have a dedicated budget for the National Environment and Planning Strategy.
Environment and spatial strategies in the Environment and Planning Act
The environment and spatial strategy is a new instrument introduced by the Environment and Planning Act. An environment and spatial strategy is a policy and governance document that includes a comprehensive vision for the development of the physical environment over the long term. The vision must be integrative and strategic and amount to more than the sum of separate sectoral policy visions. On 5 October 2018 the government published its Government Position Paper on the National Environment and Planning Strategy, an intermediary step in the preparation of the draft Strategy, which will be sent to the House of Representatives early in 2019.
The Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations asked the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure to advise on the how the Strategy can be designed to steer policy interventions towards the government’s priorities.
Note to the editor
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