Several stakeholders are involved in the Natura 2000 planning process for nature area Noorbeemden. This study investigates who the stakeholders for this area are and how the participatory planning process is experienced by different stakeholders.
Stakeholder participation in the Natura 2000 planning process: A case study for the Noorbeemden
Natura 2000 is a network of over 25000 protected sites, designed to halt the loss of biodiversity within the European Union. The European Union sets the framework for the conservation of species and habitats, but, up to some point, it is up to the individual Member States to decide how they want to reach the conservation objectives. In the Netherlands 166 Natura 2000 sites are assigned, including the site Noorbeemden & Hoogbos in South-Limburg. This site consists of two separate areas, one of them being the nature area Noorbeemden.
In every nature area several stakeholders can be involved. This can be on different levels: from the European Union to an individual inhabitant. For nature area Noorbeemden a stakeholder identification and analysis was carried out. Different stakeholders have different interests in and influence on the plans for the area. Some of the more influential stakeholders were interviewed to get information for the stakeholder analysis and to get insight in the effects of involving different stakeholders from the stakeholders’ point of view. A local survey was done to gather information about the interests and influence of individual inhabitants and visitors.
The most important actors in the Noorbeemden area are the Province of Limburg, ‘Natuurmonumenten’, water board ‘Roer en Overmaas’ and the farmers’ representative organisation LLTB. These and other stakeholders came together in a participatory planning process to draft a concept management plan for the Natura 2000 site. According to the interviewees there were several benefits of stakeholder participation, but they also experienced different problems in the process. The inhabitants were not involved in the planning process at all and did not feel informed, but most of them were interested in the plans.
In literature, and in policy making, stakeholder participation is seen as a solution to many problems in the drafting and implementation of plans. The results of this thesis show there are several benefits of stakeholder participation, but facilitators of the participation processes need to be aware of the pitfalls of a participatory approach and to anticipate possible problems to get a successful participation.