Municipalities and provinces can have financial reasons for allowing developers to build along the coast. That is asking for ‘long rows of beach cafes and houses’, says landscape architect Ingrid Duchhart in response to the news that the general ban on building in coastal zones is to go.
'Crazy,’ was Duchhart’s first reaction to the announcement by the cabinet at the end of December. ‘Our long empty beaches are our pride and joy.’ She shares the fears of nature organizations that the coast will become messy if the national government deals only with coastal safety and leaves the rest to municipalities, provincial governments and water boards. ‘Without a national vision on what our coast should look like, every municipality or province will do its own thing. And if there are also financial incentives to enter into dealings with a developer, perhaps because of a budget gap, the chances are that big stretches of coast will become built up.’
Duchhart says the built-up areas will spread like an oil slick. ‘No one does it on purpose, it just happens. First there is just a carpark, then comes a chip shop and a couple of little houses, and a couple more. Before you know it the unique Dutch coasts will be a thing of the past.’
What is more no one has an overview at the moment of the safety implications of coastal development, says Duchhart. ‘All along the coast you need to use computer models to see where you should and shouldn’t build, and how building will affect sand movement. I am not confident that municipalities and provinces will monitor that.’
Duchhart is not only negative, though. ‘The decision creates opportunities as well. Zeeland for instance really needs an innovation drive. Some dune landscapes could do with more dynamism, and building on the beach itself can even provide an additional water barrier. But it must be researched and developed with care.