An attractive landscape is not only a pleasure to see, it also has considerable usefulness for society. The landscape is important for nature and as a backdrop to where we live, work and spend our leisure time. An appealing landscape has significant economic value, too. A large portion of the Netherlands consists of agricultural landscapes used to produce food. In more and more areas, however, recreation is driving an equal amount of income and employment as agriculture does. For recreational purposes an attractive landscape is of immense importance.
Natural elements like hedgerows, hedges and flower-rich field borders contribute in large measure to the landscape's attractiveness. What's more, these are elements that serve useful purposes like pollination and pest control in agriculture. They can also be instrumental in improving water quality and providing useful products like fuel wood and material wood. The landscape elements are also important for links between nature areas, because they enable plants and animals to move around. This is a key way of helping to keep populations healthy and of addressing climate change.
To harmonise the configuration and the use of the landscape effectively, it is necessary to bring together the managers and the users of the landscape. A good weighing up of interests among the managers and users is essential in keeping the landscape attractive. In several respects a multifunctional landscape has a higher value than landscapes with only one function or just a few.
The natural capital of the landscape can be better utilised by ensuring good interweaving of green and blue elements. Green and blue elements (like hedgerows, road/ditch verges, hedges, field borders, small woods and nature areas) provide a landscape that is both attractive and functional.
The following functional aspects should be taken into account in designing green-blue networks:
- pest control
- habitat for plants and animals
- interconnection of nature areas
- current land usage
- cultural history
- recreational experience (walking and cycling)
To adapt the form of the landscape to the needs of an area, it is necessary to have building blocks that create a cohesive and functional network. The building blocks are formed by linear or sheet-like green and blue landscape elements, such as small woods, hedgerows, ponds and watercourses. Together they form green-blue networks.
It has to be clear what is and is not allowed in a particular type of landscape. For landscapes with a cultural heritage value, it is important to stipulate which landscape elements must survive over the long haul, so as to preserve the identity of the type of landscape. It is advisable to agree this with all landowners and then set it down in a zoning plan.
Besides physical characteristics of the landscape, the stakeholders are another pivotal factor. To harmonise the configuration and the use of the landscape effectively, it is necessary to bring together the managers and the users of the landscape. A good weighing up of interests among the managers and users is essential to keep the landscape attractive. In several respects a multifunctional landscape has a higher value than landscapes with only one function or just a few.
At national level in the Netherlands, the spatial policy for landscape has been laid down in the Spatial Planning Memorandum and in the Infrastructure and Spatial Planning Structure Vision. Almost all policy concerning the landscape has been devolved to the provincial authorities. Information about this subject can be found on the websites of the provinces. Some of the policy focuses on twenty National Landscapes. Here, the policy is aimed at maintaining the core qualities of the landscapes.
Ambitions for managing nature and landscapes have been formulated in an agreement concluded between central government and the provincial authorities. It is up to the provincial authorities to fulfil the ambitions (including agricultural nature management).
In the white area (i.e. places outside the National Landscapes, National Ecological Network and Natura 2000 areas), the desired development of the landscape depends mainly on zoning plans adopted by municipalities. Municipalities generally have a landscape development plan.
Subsidies for managing landscape are obtainable under the Nature and Landscape Subsidy System.
Farmers, Staatsbosbeheer (the public body managing nature reserves), the local water authority and the provincial authority joined forces to create an interwoven green-blue network in the Hoeksche Waard region. The network facilitates natural pest control and the pollination of agricultural crops. The green network, including field borders, verges and dikes, reduces the need to use chemical pesticides for the crops. So a smaller amount of these agents end up in the environment, which has benefits for such matters as water quality. Additionally, the green elements reinforce the identity and the attractiveness of the landscape, which is in turn advantageous for recreation.
Colourful bee-friendly landscape
There is now a colourful bee-friendly landscape in the Land van Wijk en Wouden region. Bees and other pollinators play an important part in the landscape. They pollinate fruit crops and natural vegetation. To ensure good pollination, the bees need to be able to find sufficient food and somewhere to nest and shelter. Green-blue interweaving figures prominently in helping them to do so. For this bee-friendly landscape project, a manual was compiled for configuring and managing the landscape and for planning a regional network for pollinating insects.
Using local wood for heating
Maintaining rural elements like hedgerows is expensive. But these elements also yield useful products, such as fuel wood. In a pilot project called 'Heating with local wood', an experiment is underway in which local wood is generating energy.
Maps will soon be available