The Netherlands comprises three constituent territories: the territory in continental Europe, the Netherlands Antilles, and Aruba.
The continental Netherlands is roughly the size of Kyushu in Japan. Most of the country consists of either lowlands along the sea or reclaimed land, with one-quarter of the country at or below sea level. The population density 400/km² is higher than that of Japan (Japan: 342/km² in 2012).
The Randstad region, a conurbation made up of the capital Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the Hague and Utrecht, covers 26% of the territory and is home to 46% of its population.
TableNetherlands fast facts
|Kingdom of the Netherlands
|About 41,864 km² (about the same as Kyushu)
|Approximately 17.05 million
(2016.8: Statistics Netherlands)
|Percentage of urban population
|USD 7,384 billion (2016.4: IMF)
|GDP per capita
|USD 43,603 (2015) (2016.4: IMF)
|Percentage of employment by industry
services: 70.4% (2016 est.)
|Economic growth rate
|1.1% (2010), 1.7% (2011), ▲1.6% (2012)
▲0.7% (2013), 0.9% (2014), 1.9% (2015)
1.8% (2016) (2016.4: IMF)
(Information Updated: March 2017)
FigureMap of Netherlands
Referred to as a decentralized unitary state, the provinces and basic municipalities of the Netherlands have the obligation to engage in joint administrative work, which is delegated by the national government, in addition to performing their individual administrative work as autonomous bodies. Further, the heads of the provinces and municipalities are appointed by the royal command of the king. The provinces have less responsibility as compared with the prefectures in Japan.
The country is comprised of 12 provinces and 418 basic municipalities (as of 2010). As the result of merger, the number of municipalities decreased from 431 of 2009.
Alongside this structure, diverse types of regional administrative organizations composed of multiple municipalities have developed (such as city-regions), however the coalition government established in October 2010, advocating "small government", has given out the policy of abolishing the city-regions (not yet implemented).
Water resources management
|Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment
|Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations
|Ministry of Economic Affairs
|Amsterdam Metropolitan Area
The Netherlands, comprising low land surrounded by water, has traditionally implemented comprehensive national spatial policies as exemplified by the creation of polders following the flood of 1916 and the delta plan subsequent to the flood of 1953.
Its efforts on spatial planning date back to the Housing Act (Woningwet)of 1901. While the post-War emphasis was on reconstruction and the resolution of housing shortage, principal issues have been changing from time to time since 1960, when the government began to publish its spatial policy, and range from the development of growth centers outside the Metropolitan area and market-oriented urban policies.
As regards regional policies, regional disparities within the country have been very limited as compared with other European countries. Although support had traditionally been provided mainly to regions in the periphery, the country decided in 2006 to end traditional regional policies and place emphasis on supporting regions that contribute to national economic development in order to enhance its competitiveness and promote innovation.
The Spatial Planning Act (Wet op de Ruimtelijke Ordening, WRO), which governs spatial planning and urban planning separately from housing, was legislated in 1965.
Figure:National Spatial Structure - Economy, Infrastructure, Urbanization
Source: Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Milieu (2013) "Structuurvisie Infrastructuur en Ruimte"
|Given that the Spatial Planning Act had become complicated due to repeated amendments, a fundamental amendment thereof intended to achieve the simplification of decision-making procedures and ensuring effectiveness, among other things, was put into effect as of July 1, 2008.
The delegation of authority to local governments and other matters, which were also set forth in the National Spatial Strategy, were promoted to strengthen planning by basic municipalities and expedite the decision-making procesures for spatial planning. The Land Development Act concerning the sharing of land development costs was also enacted concurrently with the New Act.
|Spatial planning system
|National, provincial, and basic municipal government plans were all replaced by structural visions (Structuurvisie). Structural visions, which are related to strategic policies, set forth the basic principles of spatial policies, as well as the mode of execution of the policies. Unlike before, the national and provincial structural visions are internal guidelines and are not binding on lower level governments.
|Land use and zoning
|While the municipalities have always devised the land use zoning plans for non-developed areas, the new Law required that they devise and update zoning plans for all areas. The Law permits the municipalities to devise plans without provincial approval, and enables the provinces and the national government to devise an adaptation plan (Inpassingsplan) with respect to land use zoning that affect their respective interests.
The Spatial Planning Act is expected to be integrated in the system of Environment Act (Omgevingswet) together with other laws and decrees such as Environmental Management Act and the draft Environmental Act which unifies 26 environment-related laws was submitted to House of Representatives in June 2014. The aim of the integration is regarded as the simplification of procedures to speed up decision making process in order to ensure consistency with spatial plans and projects/activities related to environment and nature and to enable application of laws conform with the current situation of the regions, and the legal system of spatial planning is going to be amended as well. Environment Act is scheduled to be enforced in 2018.
Plans are being devised on multiple levels with respect to areas related to the capital.
In response to the increase in water levels of the ocean and the rivers in recent years due to global warming, the Delta Committee, which studies anti-flood measures, made recommendations on the safety strategy for the next 100 years to the Minister of Transport, Public Works and Water Management in September 2008, and stated that while the Netherlands is safe in the short term, enhancement of measures is required in the long term. In addition to incorporating the recommendations into the First National Water Plan, the national government is scheduled to submit the concept for the New Delta Act by the end of 2009. The National Water Plan was published in December 2009, and the draft of New Delta Act was submitted to the parliament in 2010 then became effective in January 2012.
(Information Updated: March 2015)