Is The New Dutch Environment and Planning Act Good For The Commons?

Every week or so, our colleague Ruth will keep us updated on her ongoing research into the new Dutch law for the planning and design of the physical environment and how it relates to the commons. This is her first dispatch.

After years of bureaucratic struggles, the ‘New Environmental Act’ will finally become law in 2021 in The Netherlands. This new Dutch law (‘Omgevingswet’) is really a collection of regulations to manage the physical environment and how it is designed.

The Omgevingswet was put together in order to streamline the maze of entangled laws and regulations. The goal is also to improve access to the planning process for local initiatives. Finally, the idea of the Omgevingswet is to decentralise parts of the design and planning, making it easier for cities and regions to adapt to local challenges without getting slowed down by national red tape.

If all these ambitions are realised, commons initiatives might be able to gain a foothold in the political planning process. Even better, this new law might create the possibility for people to re-claim the built environment as a commons. That is why it is urgent to examine the law, the amendments, discussions, experiences from involved parties and experiments by local governments.

As part of my work for Commons Network, I will investigate what the potential of this new system is for the commons. I will look at the bureaucratic bolstering of citizens’ initiatives and to what extent that also provides a more fertile ground for commons. I will also research how commons can contribute to the spatial environment in this new law.

I want to take a critical approach to this new law. Aren’t citizens more disenfranchised by this law? Is this legislative revolution really good for the environment? What does this new law mean for the cloudy relationship between commons and state policy?

For this project I will use literature about commons, the role of the state and the practice of commoning. But I will also look at the digital platform that is being built especially for this new system. Finally, I will reflect on experiments/pilots by municipalities.

Thoughts, ideas, questions or other remarks are very much appreciated. Don’t hesitate to contact me through my email:

Photo by Peter Heeling (Creative Commons)