Community Planning: Making Planning Work

Casestudy 13The Netherlands
A strategic response to social exclusion
and neighbourhood decline

  • description
  • further information

his case study illustrates the need for integrated action and community involvement in the regeneration of a run-down township, showing that is not easy to get the various sectoral experts to understand each other’s position and expectations when generic skills are lacking.

Hoogvleit grew from a small fishing village to become a planned satellite town of Rotterdam during the 1950s and 1960s. It housed about 40,000 people. However, in the 1970s the apartment blocks that had been built became increasingly unpopular and many of the residents who were able to moved out. Those left behind were mainly the poor, immigrant ethnic minorities and single-person households. Industrial closures were followed by high unemployment. The image and reputation of the town, with its nearby harbour and industrial areas, was that of deprivation. Physical isolation from Rotterdam was mirrored by social exclusion, with drugs and crime making the downward spiral worse.

Only integrated action at a large scale was likely to turn around the situation in Hoogvleit. This began in 1995 when the local government undertook an extensive exercise to identify the problems. Citizens’ involvement was a key component of this stage and those that followed. This led to a major regeneration programme that drew in resources and active support from several important and influential agencies. The municipality of Rotterdam, a powerful big city body, and two of the social housing corporations who owned many of the properties were actively involved, and there was also support from central government. There has been consistent support and complementary policies between the different scales of government involved – key factors for successful strategic action. Furthermore, innovative projects within Hoogvleit have been able to win additional grants and support.

While the key objective was to tackle social exclusion, the regeneration work involved a number of inter-connected and mutually reinforcing strands. These were:

  • improving economic vitality;
  • strengthening social cohesion;
  • sustainability;
  • improvement of the housing stock and living environment;
  • strong civic involvement;
  • area branding (to support and market the positive aspects of the changes the project was delivering).
Thus the project is strategic in scale and in its engagement with all aspects of the settlement.

The work has involved drastic changes to the physical environment, with substantial levels of demolition and rebuilding. The regeneration plan that came into operation in 1998 will see something like 25 per cent of the housing demolished (over 3,600 dwellings), and the rebuilding of an equivalent number. High quality building is a central part of the plan. The intention is not only to relocate existing residents but to attract new citizens to a place that was previously seen by outsiders as a very unattractive place to live. Effective implementation and delivery are central concerns.

There have also been a number of innovations in housing, including management and marketing and use of environmentally friendly demolition and building processes. A ‘Senior Citizens Brigade’ has formed through which older people help each other with various problems, including those created by the renewal process itself.

Among the core values in the branding of Hoogvleit are ‘self-esteem’, ‘sense of community and belonging’, ‘determination’ and ‘adventure’, and one of the results of this was the development of three housing area developments where over 50 people will be living in houses that they designed themselves.

Go back to case studies listing

Furhter information
ODPM (2006) UK Presidency EU Ministerial Informal on Sustainable Communities, European Evidence Review Papers, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, London, pp97–107.


This special feature sponsored by the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)


Last updated on:14 April 2009