Integrating subsurface management into spatial planning in the Netherlands, Sweden and Flanders

Fransje Hooimeijer, Lidewij Tummers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
122 Downloads (Pure)


The pressures of climate change, energy transition, the financial crisis and retreating governments, call for a reintroduction of the subsurface into spatial planning. Most urban technological infrastructure, including load-bearing capacity, heat and water, is located in the subsurface. It stores water, plays a role in cooling the city and provides geothermal heat as renewable energy. Yet the subsurface is insufficiently recognised as part of the solution in tackling the current challenges. This paper compares the level of integration of subsurface management in Dutch, Swedish and Flemish (Belgium) planning systems. The criteria for the comparison of the planning systems are based on the format developed in COMMIN, a transnational project within the Baltic Sea Region INTERREG III programme. To establish the guiding principles for spatial planning applicable in all three countries, the principal institutions, legal frameworks and planning documents are studied. These are analysed and connected to subsurface management aspects. The analysis of the main differences and overlaps between the planning systems of the three countries forms the starting point for an approach that integrates subsurface decision making into spatial planning. The conclusions argue that, rather than new regulations, a culture change in planning culture is the key to successful integration of the subsurface.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-172
JournalProceedings of the ICE - Urban Design and Planning
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Spatial planning
  • subsoil infrastructire
  • energy transition


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