Enhancing the Use of Flood Resilient Spatial Planning in Dutch Water Management: A Study of Barriers and Opportunities in Practice

Casper Oukes, Wim Leendertse*, Jos Arts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
35 Downloads (Pure)


Around the world, deltaic and coastal regions like the Netherlands are facing challenges from climate, change such as sea-level rise as well as more frequent and extreme natural events. Since 2009, the Dutch government has tried to mitigate flood vulnerability by deploying a balanced mix of flood protection measures, resilient spatial planning and crisis management (Multi-Layer Safety). However, recent evaluations have concluded that resilient spatial planning is (too) limitedly applied in practice. This article aims to understand the barriers and opportunities for resilient spatial planning in flood risk management by comparing two cases where resilient spatial planning was opted for: Dordrecht and the IJssel-Vecht Delta. The study suggests a large gap between the wide array of possible measures, and those that are actually realized in practice. Three physical-spatial barriers were identified: maximum flood depths, lack of space, and rigidity of the existing built environment. Additionally, institutional-organizational barriers were found, including: a false, low or non-existent safety perception or risk awareness, and therefore a lack of urgency to act; a lack of political and societal support; a suboptimal collaboration between stakeholders; ambiguity regarding responsibilities; finances and a cost-benefit imbalance; and a lack of human capital. Subsequently, the article explores possibilities to overcome these barriers. Overcoming these barriers can pave pathways for flood resilient spatial planning. The institutional-organizational barriers appear surmountable, whereas the physical-spatial barriers prove to be more problematic and form the most important restrictive factor for resilient spatial planning in flood risk management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-232
Number of pages21
JournalPlanning Theory and Practice
Issue number2
Early online date2-Mar-2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • adaptation
  • Flood resilience
  • Multi-Layer Safety
  • spatial planning
  • water management

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