Methodological Account

The development of the Deltametropolis concept has been studied for the period from the moment of its first emergence until its political acceptance by the Lower House as part of new national government policy (second half of the 1990s to 2002).That research period enabled the observation ot conceptual dynamics, because the ways in which actors use concepts, and affect the conceptual change in terms of content, are more easily observed in a context where the meaning of a concept has not yet been officially ratified.The reconstruction of shifts in meaning of the Deltametropolis concept has taken place not by counting words or text elements (quantitative content analysis), but by qualitative analysis of recurring themes, statements, arguments, and organizing ideas (qualitative analysis) (Healey 1999).

For the present case study, qualitative methods have been used, consisting of document analysis, archive analysis, and interviews. The internal archives ot the former Ministry of Spatial Planning (Ministerie van VROM) and its research and development department, the former National Spatial Planning Agency (RPD: Rijksplanologische Dicnst) formed a main source.2

In addition, white papers and relevant proceedings ot the Dutch Lower House over the periods 1990—2002 were studied, as were myriad articles in professional literature and newspapers, research studies, press releases, and policy documents of various actors, such as the monthly agenda and newsletter ot the Deltametropolis Association (Vereniging Deltametropool). To fill in the gaps remaining after the document and archive analyses had been carried out, interviews with key persons in this episode ot Dutch spatial planning were conducted, including (then) representatives of the Deltametropolis Association, the Randstad Administrative Committee (BCR: Bestuurlijke Commissie Randstad), the National Spatial Planning Agency and the Dutch Ministry of Spatial Planning.

Two Planning Discourses

The spatial debate in the Netherlands in 1990s—the decade in which the Deltametropolis concept emerged and developed—was fueled from two distinct prime orientations. Each of these represented a different, reasonably coherent perspective on spatial strategic planning: one organized around an urban—rural dichotomy and the other based more on an entrepreneurial, economic-infrastructure planning orientation.

The Urban–Rural Spatial Policy Discourse

The first policy discourse that can be distilled from the planning debate in 1990s is the urban- rural discourse. This discourse stands for an orientation in strategic planning that has been predominant in Dutch national planning for many years (Faludi and van derValk 1994, Hajer and Zonneveld 2000,Wissink 2000,WRR 2002). Central to this discourse is an ordered spatial development based on an urban—rural dichotomy. Open and panoramic spaces should be preserved, while scattered, sprawled urbanization should be prevented. A certain degree of concentration of and hierarchy in urban activities and compact urbanity in a green, open countryside is considered preferable. The role of strategic planning consists of serving social goals together with the overall idea of sustainable development. It should do so via the provision of high-quality housing and living environments (via designation of new urbanization locations and agreements on housing production) and via the mitigation of the negative effects of market forces.

This pursuit is translated into overall principles such as equity, an equal distribution of economic sources, and an emphasis on the support of weak points in the spatial-economic structure, and into principles of protection and preservation of amenities and threatened forms of land use, such as open space, nature areas, small residential centers, and distinct landscapes (Hajer and Zonneveld 2000, Hajer 2001). Over the years, elements of this urban—rural discourse have been translated into Dutch national government policy and has been supported and enabled by a strong actor coalition, including a large part of the planning professional community and the national planning department, and by different planning practices. In general, the prevailing urban—rural land dichotomy could be recognized in departments, academic schools, and subsidy allocations, especially in relation to the realization of so-called growth centers, the Dutch version of new towns (Faludi and van derValk 1994, NSCGP 1999, Hajer and Zonneveld 2000).

Emergence of an Alternative Entrepreneurial Policy Discourse

For many years, the urban—rural orientation was predominant in Dutch national strategic planning.This changed by the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, when a second orientation started to emerge. Whereas the first discourse has a more morphological perspective and is oriented towards land use and zoning, the second orientation is more concerned with questions regarding development and functions rather than zoning. This adjustment in the discursive space was driven by the economic recession in 1980s and subsequent recovery in 1990s. The role of strategic planning changed. Planning should aim tor spatial development at those places where it was most efficient: the enhancement of strong points rather than the continued support ot weak points in the spatial-economic structure. In general, this entrepreneurial discourse favored a more expansive approach than the more restrictive urban—rural discourse, in which spatial claims should be accommodated and economic expansion should be given space, according to the preferences expressed, in order to enable economic growth (Hajer and Zonneveld 2000, Wissink 2000, Hajer 2001, WRR 2002, Lagendijk and Boekema 2009).

Although housing remained an important tool for implementing spatial policy, it was no longer the only, or even the main vehicle. Now, investments in the economy and infrastructure developed as tools for guiding spatial development. In line with the functional rather than zoning perspective, this approach implied less urban-rural distinction (red-green, according to a customary map legend color-coding), more mixed approaches of green, red, blue (water and soil), and grey (infrastructure) planning tasks. Over the years, the new economic-infrastructural approach to national planning was enabled and facilitated by developing new planning practices. The existing practices changed into a more open, less formalized process. A growing number of actors outside the traditional planning circle started to contribute to the planning debate. In this way, they developed and transported new ideas into the planning arena (Hajer and Zonneveld 2000, Parlementaire Werkgroep 2000).

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