A policy instruments palette for spatial quality: lessons from Dutch flood risk management

Britta Restemeyer*, Margo van den Brink, Jos Arts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Worldwide, more integrated and spatially embedded forms of flood risk management have been advocated. In the Netherlands, this ‘spatial turn’ can be associated with a quest for spatial quality, i.e. making use of existing landscape values to create more liveable, aesthetic and sustainable flood risk management solutions. Reflecting on Dutch flood risk management practice, this paper inventorizes which policy instruments are currently used to strengthen spatial quality, and how involved actors view these instruments. We present empirical insights on common concerns, standpoints and dilemmas from the Dutch Flood Protection Programme (DFPP), a large-scale reinforcement operation to climate-proof the Netherlands’ main flood defences by 2050. Spatial quality here remains a rather ambiguous policy objective, lacking a legally binding framework. Using the NATO-policy instruments’ typology as a starting point, and based on a co-learning process between science and practice, we present an instruments palette that can be used to strengthen spatial quality in flood risk management. Our findings reveal that the DFPP makes use of rather ‘soft’ policy instruments. The actual achievement of spatial quality goals seems to depend largely on the combined project team competencies, guidance and support provided by responsible water authorities, and commitment of other project partners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-263
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Environmental Policy and Planning
Issue number3
Early online date21-Mar-2024
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Dutch Flood Protection Programme
  • integrated flood risk management
  • Policy instruments
  • spatial quality
  • water governance


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