This paper gives insight into recent developments of dwellings, inhabitants and jobs in Dutch cities and their surroundings. It raises the question if the recent developments can be described as compact urban developments. Furthermore, future possibilities for compact urban developments in the Netherlands are discussed.
The concept of the compact city is a key strategy to limit suburban sprawl and to obtain a more sustainable urban development. In the Netherlands, concepts for compact forms of urbanization have played a major role in strategies for spatial planning. The Forth National Policy Document on Spatial Planning (1988) was based on the concept of the ‘compact city’. More recently, the National Spatial Strategy (2004) set specific goals for so-called ‘concentration areas’ around greater urban conurbations and ‘urban densification’ in existing built-up areas. However, recently ambitions concerning spatial planning and urban compaction have been decentralized to the regional and municipal level and national funds supporting urban regeneration projects are about to face substantial cuts.
The paper shows that in the period between 1996 and 2008 the number of dwellings and jobs has increased, whereas the number of inhabitants has decreased in the Dutch cities. Many inhabitations have moved to new suburban areas in the surrounding of the existing cities, therefore creating a less dense city on a regional scale. Future urban developments will depend on economic conditions and on decisions on the local and regional level.