Poort naar de Peel

The area between Ospeldijk and the Groote Peel is a microcosm of the rural developments in the rural areas of the Netherlands and can therefore serve as a pilot area for the transition of transitional areas around Natura 2000. At the national level, intensification of agriculture in transitional areas, using heavy machinery, fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides, lowering of the water table, and groundwater extractions, has had negative effects on nature, water, climate adaptation, and liveability.

Therefore, various policy changes are coming to the Dutch countryside, including the Nitrogen Reduction and Nature Improvement Program, the National Rural Area Program (NPLG), and the Environmental Law. Since land in the countryside is mainly owned by farmers, it is vital for the transition that they are motivated to involve nature more in their operations.

A group of citizens from Ospeldijk expressed concerns about the intensification of land use between the village and the Groote Peel. In addition, they also see the national developments and challenges considering the transition of the outlying area. Under the name 'Poort naar de Peel' (Gateway to the Peel), they have united as a citizens' initiative, through which they hope to achieve a use of the area that contributes to the challenges ahead for nature, agriculture, climate and quality of life. They hope their initiative can serve as a pilot project for other Natura 2000 transition areas.


Between the Groote Peel and Ospeldijk, a trend of intensification of agriculture is visible, which the initiators want to reverse. To this end, they want to know what the (policy-related) challenges are, how their initiative can contribute and what the visions of the landowners in the area are. They would also like to know what follow-up steps might be appropriate for the area to achieve a more nature-inclusive use, and they would like a concept for the layout of the area. This is to give direction to their ambitions. Therefore, in the current study, an attempt was made to answer the following questions.

Research questions:

  • What are the (policy) challenges in the area?
  • How do current landowners view the (future) use of the area?
  • And what follow-up steps could be taken to achieve a more nature-inclusive layout of the area?


The challenges that emerge from the policy documents and visions of the government focus on the central themes of nature and biodiversity, climate adaptation, sustainable agriculture and economic vitality, sustainable energy, water quality, and liveability, public health, recreation, and tourism. The visions of the various levels of government, including the NPLG, emphasize the importance of creating coupling opportunities, where developments in the countryside contribute to more than one of the challenges.

Most landowners have a vision of agriculture focused on delivering quality products and high yields. Respondents see the area as an agricultural landscape, but they also see strong signals that nature is being integrated into the area. Farmers who practice agricultural nature management have positive experiences with their collaboration partners, but are annoyed by the messy appearance of the nature-inclusive plots. Changes are welcome, provided that the usefulness is clear, and the earning capacity is not endangered. The continuously changing policy without clear perspective is a source of annoyance. They are open to exchanging or renting land, but prefer not to sell.

To achieve a more nature-inclusive design of the project area, it is important to start from the motivation of farmers and landowners. Farmers have a strong passion for their profession and their production, so it is important to make their performance in terms of biodiversity and sustainability visible, so that they can communicate their craftsmanship to each other. The grasslands in the project area are already used in a relatively extensive way. A low-threshold way to extensify is therefore to see if these livestock farms would like to expand their practice. To continue arable farming in the area, practices will have to be adapted. Think of alternative crops that are resistant to drought, the application of flower-rich field margins or the principles of Farmers for Nature. In the elaboration of the conceptual design, it has been chosen to maintain ground based agriculture, especially grassland for dairy farming, as the main function. In addition, space is provided for innovative concepts such as agroforestry, nature-inclusive solar parks and nature-inclusive housing, efforts are being made to introduce landscape elements and there is room for new nature.