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Sustainable Urban Development, the Dutch Method: Best Practice for the European Integrated Approach?

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An important European environmental policy aim is to create “sustainable cities”. The aim of this article is to explore the possible tensions between environmental measures and urban spatial planning law that can arise in creating such sustainable cities and examine opportunities for integrated sustainable urban planning. The policy document discussed in this article is the European Thematic Strategy on Urban Development of 2006. This Strategy promotes an integrated approach as the tool to achieve sustainable urban development, with the implementation of existing EU environmental legislation as its outer boundary. However, no specific EU legislation has been adopted or is foreseen thereon. The EU merely intends to offer support and guidance to the Member States. But will such a policy suffice to reach the aim? Are not clearer (legislative) parameters needed? Within the EU several “best practices” to the integrated approach are being developed by the Member States. This article highlights the Dutch approach to integrated urban development that could be seen as such a best practice. Particularly relevant in urban (re)development projects are the Dutch 'Interim Act City and Environment approach', the legal Framework for Air Quality in the Dutch Environmental Management Act and the 'Crisis and Recovery Act'. These instruments show chances for integrated urban (re)development. But some points of attention remain even in the Dutch approach, such as the guarantee that the ecological aspect of sustainability must not come off worse. Is EU legislation needed to address these points of attention or will national (or local) action do?


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