New thinking in spatial planning - from methodology to implementation
Views from Western Europe


The Hague, Netherlands

Royal Theatre

17 April 2019

Korte Voorhout 3
2511 CW The Hague

The ESPON Conference “New thinking in spatial planning – from methodology to implementation” took place at the historic Royal Theatre in The Hague to discuss the current trends, policies and research needs for spatial planning in Western Europe.

Nicolas Rossignol from ESPON EGTC welcomes the participants to the fifth and final event of the Spatial Planning Roadshow 2018/2019 (Paris, Dublin, Luxembourg, Brussels and The Hague) and presents the latest ESPON applied research activities of 2019, the forthcoming cut-off-date to submit proposals for Targeted Analyses as well as the different capacity building activities proposed to local policy makers (e.g. peer-learning workshops, territorial impact assessment tools, webinars…). He introduced both the agenda and the main expected outcomes of the day. In particular, he highlighted the need to end up with the identification of knowledge gaps in spatial planning and proposals for potential future ESPON research activities.

“We can’t solve problems using the same way of thinking we used when we created them”. Mira Bangel from SenseTribe presents the ‘Design-Thinking collaborative approach’ to tap into the collective wisdom and tackle some of the spatial planning core challenges which are affecting Western Europe today.

Robert Dijksterhuis, head of the spatial policy division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Kingdom Relations (BZK) highlights the evolution of rules and strategic plans in The Netherlands, where multiple challenges and limited space lead to the search of innovative combinations of actions: “Major transitions ask for new, more integrated laws and planning”.

“Good spatial planning starts with embracing complexity” – Emiel Reiding, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Kingdom Relations (BZK) and project leader of the National Spatial Strategy (NOVI), gives an outline of the basics of Dutch spatial planning. While the principles and qualities of territorial policies in the Netherlands have contributed for ranking among the top 5 of countries with the highest quality of life, which challenges are foreseen for the years to come?

Travelling across the ESPON Roadshow on Spatial planning, a panel discussion brought the contributions from France, Ireland, Luxembourg and Belgium.

Laura Courtney from Ireland presented the Irish National Planning Framework (NPF) and highlighted the role of the newly established Land Development Agency. She also reflected on the part of cities and on the importance of tying spatial strategies to investment funds. Benoit Fanjeau, from the Region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, identified as the main challenges mobility, affordable housing and climate change. The development of the new spatial strategy (SRADDET) aimed to reinforce the attractiveness of the region, to fight against urban sprawl, to strengthen centralities and organise them in a network, but he concluded that “more flexible approaches to planning are needed”. From Luxembourg, Frederick-Christoph Richters presented the revision of the Master Programme for Spatial Planning based on five basic functions: quality of life, resources, resilience, social and territorial cohesion. He also highlighted the importance of public participation in this process, through a collaborative, change-making approach of co-creation rather than just consultation. Kristien Lefeber from Flanders, presented the Flemish spatial planning policy and raised the provocative question: “An integrated environmental vision, a utopia?”

David Evers, Dutch ESPON Contact Point, shared some concluding remarks about this panel discussion and highlighted some of the key themes that come up: the international component, the fact that territories share common problems and challenges, the balance between integration and focus on the spatial plans, the challenge of implementation. More than concrete answers or conclusions, this session brought a vivid exchange of experiences between the participants.

The following session “Contribution from ESPON Research” brought Vincent Nadin, Professor of Spatial Planning at TU Delft, to present the ESPON Compass project, completed in 2018 and revealing a considerable diversity of spatial planning and territorial governance practices in Europe. Planning authorities are seeking more integration of spatial plans with sectoral policies, though this is still weak in some critical areas. Surprisingly, the links with the EU Cohesion Policy are not strong enough, and territorial cooperation has not had a significant impact on mainstream planning systems. It is time for the EU institutions to make a more concerted effort to engage with spatial planning and territorial governance in the member states.

David Evers, leader of ESPON project SUPER– Sustainable Urbanization and land-use Practices in European Regions, shared some initial concepts of this study, which is in a preliminary stage, namely ‘sprawl’ and ‘urbanization’, proposing to challenge their somehow pejorative connotation: “Don’t call it ‘land take’ or ‘sprawl’”. He indicated that the project will rather mainly focus the driven factors for "Land-use changes' (demand-factors, but also supply-factors).

The afternoon session “Design Thinking Lab” brought the participants to collectively identify trends and knowledge gaps for spatial planning on specific issues already explored during the previous events of the Roadshow. Using a participatory design thinking approach, participants have engaged on five topic discussions: (i) Sustainable urban development; (ii) Green planning; (iii) Meeting the housing demand; (iv) Energy and climate change; (v) Well-being and inclusion.

'Photo-reportage by Luigi Caterino & Francesco Esposito'


Programme The Hague

  • Acrobat Document | 246KB

Programme The Hague NL

  • Acrobat Document | 27KB

New thinking in spatial planning: From methodology to implementation

  • Acrobat Document | 346KB

ESPON Introduction - Nicolas Rossignol

  • Acrobat Document | 1.01MB

Spatial policy in practice in The Netherlands - Robert Dijksterhui

  • Acrobat Document | 5.41MB

National Strategy on Spatial Planning and the Environment - Emiel Reiding

  • Acrobat Document | 3.05MB

Panel discussion Flanders - Lefeber Kristien

  • Acrobat Document | 906KB

Panel Discussion France - Benoît Fanjeau

  • Acrobat Document | 281KB

Panel Discussion Ireland - Laura Courtney

  • Acrobat Document | 262KB

Panel Discussion Luxembourg - Frederick-Christoph Richters

  • Acrobat Document | 677KB

ESPON SUPER - David Evers

  • Acrobat Document | 649KB

ESPON COMPAS - Vincent Nadin

  • Acrobat Document | 3.59MB