Beyond Territorialism? Why there is no European spatial planning and what to do about it?

A.K.F. Faludi

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This paper is about my path from studying Dutch to European planning. Looking at the latter made me identify a ‘territorialism’ that subdivides land into supposedly self-contained units as a basic organising principle. Where the EU is concerned, territorialism is problematic: relations, spatial or otherwise, between EU members states take the back stage. A strong, maybe even a federal EU might help but is not on the cards. So, European planning cannot take a leaf out of the book of Dutch planners. At least as far as the twentieth century has been concerned, the latter have pointed the way to a well-ordered Netherlands. But in the EU, member state should not plan as if each were a law unto itself. They should accept that, like in the Middle Ages, borders are not watertight but that there are criss-crossing governance arrangements, functional or otherwise. Nor could European spatial planning, if it existed, be about making one overall scheme, like the one Dutch planners once did for their own country. Instead, we see multiple, overlapping schemes hanging like a cloud over the land. Which
only goes to show that not everything can be contained within the territories of each EU member state. The paper ends a consideration of how to create awareness of this, and how to critique territorialism in teaching.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTeaching, Learning & Researching Spatial Planning
EditorsRoberto Rocco, Gregory Bracken, Caroline Newton, Marcin Dabrowski
Place of PublicationDelft
PublisherTU Delft OPEN Publishing
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)978-94-6366-604-6
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Dutch twentieth-century planning
  • European spatial planning
  • the EU construct
  • territorialism
  • planning pedagogy

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