3rd ESPACE International Conference

Case studies for 13th of November



Case study 1: Coastal Defences - Ter Heijde & Maeslantkering


Ter Heijde

The dunes south of The Hague are relatively narrow and therefore not robust enough to cope with increased sea level and storminess as a result of climate change. Located behind these fragile dunes sits ‘Ter Heijde’ – a vulnerable area that contains the largest greenhouse area in the Netherlands and several villages.

Rather than opting for a technical solution of raising the dunes, the Dutch government and the Province of South-Holland are looking for a more sustainable approach by widening the dunes and beach front seawards. By choosing this option, it is clear that not only technical but also spatial issues are involved. Local governments and communities have been involved in the process of choosing the suitable measures and so far have decided that the land created should be used for recreational, tourist and ecological means. The implementation of this plan will start in 2008 and is managed by the Province of South-Holland.

Despite these measures, there is now a new debate emerging on whether the coastline should be extended even further to provide a more robust safeguard for climate change and to give additional space for recreation and nature.


The Maeslantkering is a barrier built in the Rotterdam harbour. Its two large barrier doors can be closed in case of a storm surge, protecting inland riverine areas of the Rhine and the Meuse (including the city of Rotterdam). The expected increase in sea level, storm duration, storm intensity and river discharge as a result of climate change will create problems with the way the Rhine-Meuse water system and the Maeslantkering barrier is managed. Concerns exist over the issue of safety as well as salt intrusion from a combination of high sea levels and low river levels. These threats combined with the pressure of urban development in the Rotterdam area are leading to new questions in which spatial planning could play an important role. These important issues may resonate with other European countries (eg- the Thames in the UK).

Coastal Dunes of Ter Heijdge
Rotterdam harbor area and greenhouses (right)
Maeslantkering barrier closed
      Case study 2: Water level management - the 'Peatland Programme'      

Large areas in the west of the Netherlands consist of peatland. The peatlands are located in and around the ‘Randstad’ area (including Rotterdam, Den Haag, Utrecht and Amsterdam) and are mainly used for agriculture such as diary farming. The peatlands represent the typical Dutch landscape and although they are increasingly under pressure from urbanisation, they form an important part of the cultural heritage of the ‘The Green Heart’ and ‘Lower Holland’ landscapes. These landscapes have been given the ‘national landscapes’ status to enhance the quality of the country as a whole.

Since the peatlands are situated under sea-level, water has to be pumped out of the areas to maintain conditions for farming. However, drainage of the water also causes the oxidation and burning of the peat, leading to a lowering of the soil level. If draining continues, problems concerning safety, costs of drainage and infrastructure, salt intrusion, foundation of buildings and ecological impacts will become worse. These issues will be compounded by the effects of climate change.

Agricultural use of the 'Peatlands'

To tackle these issues, the regional and local governments have been working with the state departments of water and agriculture to develop a programme of action. This ‘Peatland Programme’ focusses on:

  • combining strategies to slow down the lowering of the soil with strategies to keep land use profitable;
  • making agreements between participants on changing a water-level policy that is addressing the demands of continual draining, towards a policy that sets out conditions of land use with less draining needs;
  • Identifying areas that have similar hydrological characteristics and then designating land use according to the specific hydrological situation of those areas.

Participants in the programme include: Department of Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Food Quality, the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management , the Department of Housing, Spatial planning and Environment, provinces, municipalities, water boards, dairy farmers, nature organisations, recreational groups.

      Case study 3: Space for the river - 'Biesbosch'

The Biesbosch area is located between the Rhine and the Meuse. The Biesbosch is used for fresh water supply, nature development and agriculture. In 2005 it was decided that a big part of the Biesbosch area, called the ‘Noordwaard’, will form an additional part of the catchment area of these two rivers. The increased catchment area was designed to give the river extra room, offering more flood storage capacity for surrounding areas. This will result in a 60cm drop of in the river level when in flood.

This decision was a result of a intensive discussions with local (farming) communities and will have a big impact on the inhabitants of this area. One-third of all settlements in the Noordwaard will be relocated and farmers will have to adapt to the occurence of flooding. One of the basic principles of the plan is to provide housing within the Noordwaard to accommodate relocated inhabitants. As part of the national project, ‘Space for the River’, a study is currently being undertaken to take the future climate change scenarios for sea level rise and flooding into account in the design of the catchment area. The Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management is responsible for managing the project.

      Further information      

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Jill Cook – ESPACE Communications/Project Assistant
+44 (0) 1962 846775 /mailto:jill.cook@hants.gov.uk

  Funded by the INTERREG IIIB North West Europe Programme and the Department for Communities and Local Government