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Reconnecting interests can reduce judicialization in socio-spatial govenance

Published: 15th July 2022 Last updated: 18th July 2022

Disconnected 'communities of fate' driven by globalization are one of the key causes of judicialization of spatial planning procedures in the Netherlands, research by Eva Wolf, Feie Herkes, and Stavros Zouridis has shown. They advise a well-chosen mix of judicialization, participation, and politicization per situation.

Wolf, Herkes and Zouridis researched the judicialization of spatial decision making in the Netherlands. While judicialization may sometimes produce effective and legitimate decisions, the impact can be dramatic both for the parties involved and for the legitimacy of the decision. The researchers therefore systematically compared the effectiveness and legitimacy of judicialization with two alternative action repertoires: participation and politicization.

They found that more civilian participation in policy making is not the answer, and more politicization not either. Actually, civilians seem to accept the judicial authority more than that of the city council or provincial governor.

Connecting interests

So what should city councils and provinces do to cope with the challenges of spatial planning? They need to connect the various interests, according to the researchers. Going to court is not a personal hobby of citizens, companies and interest groups, but a consequence of interests that have been driven apart in recent decades. The interests of a cattle farmer have become separated from the interests of his neighbors, the interests of the project developer are sometimes at odds with the neighborhood in which he is building.

Governance must reconnect these interests. Negotiations, going to court and the political channel must be used specifically for this purpose in each situation. A well-chosen mix of these will prevent lengthy and money-consuming legal procedures and much public dissatisfaction.

The research has resulted and will result in some journal papers but the findings are also collected in a book for practitioners. The book is available  in Dutch, see:

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