After nearly half a century of ‘Dutch Planning Doctrine’, a new approach to spatial planning and design is needed. In complex urban areas, the need is not so much to record and monitor spatial development, but to create the right conditions for regions so they can adapt to different, ever-changing conditions. Consider, for example, climate change and changes in the supply of drinking water and the discharge of rain water. The book ‘New Perspectives for an Urbanised Delta’ calls for a new approach to spatial planning in complex urban delta regions. Arnold Bregt of Wageningen University is one of the authors of the new book, and the first author of the concluding chapter.
South-western delta region between Rotterdam and Antwerp
The research that underlies this book was carried out by a consortium of three universities (Delft, Wageningen, Rotterdam), along with a number of research institutes and consulting firms. It focused on the south-western delta region between Rotterdam and Antwerp. In the new book, this delta region was used as an open air laboratory for a new adaptive planning approach.
One of the main conclusions of the research was that this new approach should not emphasise the integration of various subsystems, but should focus more on their smart coordination. “These subsystems all have a specific purpose,” explains Arnold Bregt in the final chapter, “but they are all dependent on each other, interact with each other and sometimes work against each other. They are not in balance, even though they sometimes appear to be so, and spatial planning must adapt accordingly. The planning process must be adaptive and move with the changes; it should not be static. In other words: a flexible approach is required, not a fixed method.”
Robust Adaptive Framework
The research led to the development of the Robuust Adaptief Raamwerk (‘Robust Adaptive Framework’). An essential aspect of this framework involves working with zones instead of lines: with gradual transitions instead of rigid boundaries between the various land-use functions and types. Arnold Bregt: “But this book is not a ‘cookbook’. Planning and design are never finished. In the book we focus on presenting insights that should provide inspiration and lead to experiments with concepts, tools and techniques for giving shape to robust and adaptive delta regions.”