Mapping Controversies

In this chapter we are interested in plans and maps which set out directions for future development tor larger areas and how this contributes to governance capacity building. If‘maps are the bread and butter ot [regional] spatial planning’ (Faludi 1996), it would be interesting to look at cases where plans go without maps. Why is that? Because maps hinder capacity building? Or is it the other way around: problems with capacity building are reflected in map-making processes and thus in spatial visions about desired future development expressed in maps? First, we zoom out by looking at Europe and then zoom in on the present, new phase in Dutch national planning.

Planning Beyond National Boundaries

Much has been written about the 1999 European Spatial Development Perspectives (ESDP) compiled by the then 15 member states of the European Union together with the European Commission. Faludi elsewhere in this volume points out that all maps which could be read in a (geo)political sort of way were erased from drafts. We may explain this by looking at a key difference between words and maps. Whereas verbal planning concepts in policy documents can be subject to a multitude of interpretations helped by euphemisms and other elastic sorts of language, cartographic representations ot space and territory are much more direct and consequently require a higher degree of consensus (Diihr 2006, see also Faludi 2002). A text is basically a cloud of words which needs to be read sentence by sentence. A lot can be hidden in the space between the lines. Also, while a text has to be read sequentially, a map can be read as a whole. Any sort ot message immediately jumps to the foreground.

So the ESDP is an example ot a plan (defined very broadly) without policy maps, maps which typically show desired spatial development or a desired spatial structure or morphology. This should not come as a surprise though. Only a few planning systems have some experience with fuzzy, conceptual maps (Diihr 2006). The follow-up of the ESDP, the 2011 so-called ‘Territorial Agenda of the European Union 2020’ (see Faludi 2009, Walsh 2012) does not contain any map or any sort of spatial imagery. This also counts for the revised version, the 2019 ‘Draft Territorial Agenda 2030’.

Although geopolitical mapping is rather sensitive at the European level, there are examples of such mapping at the transnational level. At the end of the 1990s several transnational visioning processes run parallel to each other as part of the EU INTERKEG program, directed towards cooperation across national borders (Diihr, Colomb and Nadin 2010). An example is the 2000 spatial vision for the so-called NorthWest Metropolitan Area or NWMA (Jensen and Richardson 2004, Zonneveld 2005, Diihr 2006). Another is the Atlantic Spatial Development Perspective (Farthing and Carriere 2007). In both vision-making processes, the step was taken which the makers of the ESDP did not take: a spatial vision on the transnational level articulated through a map with a bold sort of visual language. Although the exact visual languages differ, there is great similarity between what is on the maps: a strong emphasis on the competitiveness of cities and urban regions and a selection of those cities and urban networks which are regarded as particularly competitive.

That in both vision processes politically sensitive maps were created has something to do with the smaller size ot the area and the smaller number of stakeholders. This made the vision processes more manageable as there was less political diversity amongst participants. In both processes there was also ample room for professional expertise and a greater trust in such expertise. In contrast with that, every step in the ESDP process was the object of negotiation while the group of people working on the ESDP constantly changed according to which country organized a next ministerial meeting.4 Interestingly, in another transnational vision-making process, namely NorVision (the spatial vision for the North Sea Region), map-making was explicitly dispensed with. The project leader of NorVision makes clear why the authors of this document which was finalized in 2000 have opted for a purely verbal interpretation for the presentation of policy through what are somewhat strangely called ‘verbal visionary pictures’ (Thornaes 2000, 61). A cartographic representation of territorial structures is nothing more than a ‘fixed picture of a certain future spatial structural situation’ (ibid.). This represents a fear that any kind of map of a (transnational) area may give the impression of a master plan.

The New Dutch Planning: Policy Sectors Versus Planning

The Netherlands has a tradition of national plan making going back to I960, when government published its first report on spatial planning.That report contained only‘verbal visionary pictures’ which translated the images of the 1958 advisory report discussed above. Since the 1966 Second report every government planning report contained policy maps. Sometimes these policy maps were highly conceptual, as in the 1966 and 2000 Fifth report. In other reports there was a much higher level of detail, which gave more direct guidance towards lower levels of government.

From the 2000 Fifth report onward, national government adapted the underlying governance philosophy into the direction ot ever more decentralization and deregulation.The 2012 National Policy Strategy for Infrastructure and Spatial Planning (Ministerie van IenM 2012) very clearly minimizes planning at the national level in favor of sectoral policies, especially economic and infrastructure policy (Zonneveld and Evers 2014). Concepts aiming tor what used to be called ruimtelijke kwaliteit (spatial quality) like the Green Heart and the objective of spatial quality itself were explicitly denounced as no longer reflecting national interests. Local government should take care ot this.

In 2014 government announced a drastic overhaul ot all laws related to what is called the physical environment. The objective is to integrate 33 existing laws (partially or entirely) into one single act: the Environment and Planning Act. Main objectives are simplification and (again) deregulation as well as decentralization.The act is supposed to take effect in 2022.

A new (planning) act means a novel type of national policy document. Around mid-2019 a draft of the ‘National Strategy on Spatial Planning and the Environment’ was published (in Dutch: Nationale Omgevingsvisie; see: Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations 2019).The publication of this draft was delayed for several years, largely due to a great deal ot uncertainty about its content and sometimes fierce discussions between government departments as the strategy is supposed to become integrative tar more than any other previous national strategy or policy report. The strategy is based on four key objectives called priorities. How these priorities come together on the ground in specific territories is not made clear yet. Interestingly, all the maps which can be found in the strategy could no longer be made by the coordinating ministry or any other governmental service. The necessary expertise was lost in consecutive cycles of reorganizing the administrative fabric of national government. The entire cartography was made by the Deltametropolis Association (Verenigitig Deltametropool), the non-profit organization which was behind the pleas to adopt the Deltametropolis concept in national policy around the turn of the century (see Van Duinen elsewhere in this volume). So for the first time since 1960 there is a (planning and environment) report without policy maps. Although the English title of the draft strategy includes ‘planning’, the Dutch title does not. In fact one may doubt whether there is anything left ot spatial planning at national level. In this context the absence of genuine planning maps should not come as a surprise. It is a clear indication of a rather restrained interpretation of the relevance ot (national) spatial planning.

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