In recent decades, most rural-urban fringes in the Netherlands have seen substantial urbanisation. Urban expansions at the rural-urban fringe have formed complex hybrid landscapes consisting of residential areas, commercial zones, agricultural land, recreational and nature areas. In certain regions, urbanisation is rather compact and concentric, whereas others show dispersed and polycentric morphological patterns. Based on quantitative and qualitative spatial research, this article analyses recent urban developments and urbanisation patterns along the rural-urban fringe in the Netherlands, and identifies challenges for planning and design at national, regional and local levels.
Urban compaction policy has prevented urban sprawl in the Netherlands. However, in some regions traditionally unwanted urban development patterns can be discerned. On a national level, an important question is how increasing dispersed urbanisation may affect the economic performance of cities and the efficient use of existing infrastructure. On a regional level, there is a need for urbanisation strategies that transcend municipal boundaries. On a local level, innovative urban design/re-design strategies may help improve connections between separated functions, involve local stakeholders, and upgrade the identity of places at the fringe.