The Connecting Landscape

The Netherlands is facing major and urgent sustainability challenges. How can and should it supervise the transition of the landscape?
Foto of the landscape of a Dutch polder

Background and request for advice

In its advisory report ‘The Connecting Landscape’, the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli) focuses on the role of the landscape in addressing major spatial challenges. The report positions the landscape at the heart of the new environmental and planning policy. The challenges that arise from the energy transition, climate adaptation and the transformation of the countryside will change the landscape dramatically. Residents are attached to their landscapes and if major spatial challenges fail to adequately take the landscape into account, the necessary changes will become more difficult or even impossible to achieve. Transitions can only succeed if they add value to the landscape. In its advisory report, the Council advocates making the landscape pivotal to the realization of urgent social challenges, and to involve citizens in the process.

The advice request is:  How can we anchor the care for the quality of the Dutch landscape now that we expect landscape dynamics to increase due to changing spatial functions? What role will the (central) government play with respect to this care for the quality of the landscape?

Main recommendations

The Rli notes that since the central government has terminated its landscape policy, it is no longer clear what part the government plays in safeguarding the quality of the Dutch landscape. In addition, the landscape is too often considered a sectoral interest, with conservation and protection of the existing landscape as a priority. The Council believes that the spatial changes major sustainability challenges require offer plenty of opportunities for the creation of new valuable landscapes. That is why the Council advocates using the transition to a sustainable society to create valuable landscapes. Conversely, transitions will raise a lot of resistance if the landscape does not receive sufficient attention. The Council encourages the involvement of residents and visitors of the unique Dutch landscape in this transition.

The Council formulates three key points for steering towards the quality of the landscape: use sustainability transitions to create valuable landscape; explore the significance and values of landscapes during open discussions with residents and visitors; use a design approach. The Council recommends that these three key points be included in the general section of the National Environmental and Planning Strategy among the most important general starting points. As an initiator of major transitions, the central government will have to elaborate its responsibility for the landscape. This also means that in formulating its National Environmental and Planning Strategy, the central government has to take the opportunity to experiment with ways to involve the Dutch population on a national level in – for example theme-oriented – discussions to determine shared key values of the landscape.


In its advisory report, the Council looks at the transition of the landscape over a long period of time by looking back on developments in the landscape from 1950 to today and by exploring the future up to 2070. Looking back creates an understanding of the ways the landscape changed in a couple of generations and underpins an exploration of future changes in the landscape.

An advisory report about the landscape that includes an exploration of the future required a creative process with contributions by different parties. The Council therefore organized a Challenge for teams from design offices and educational institutes, asking them to present their views on the future of the Dutch landscape. In addition, the Council has spoken with residents in two areas about the values they attach to the landscape of the future.


On 8 November 2016, the Council presented its advisory report ‘The Connecting Landscape’ to Minister Schultz van Haegen of Infrastructure and the Environment and to Minister Van Dam for Agriculture.

Information or response

For more information or to respond, please contact Yvette Oostendorp, project leader,