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How building with nature emerged, yet became inevitable

The IJsseldelta South project is an integral project that includes multiple functions in the same area. The multiple functions in this area are flood safety, housing, infrastructure, nature and recreation. The Project goes beyond traditional integral planning in the significant role it assigns to nature development. When quantified, an area of 300 hectare of additional nature will be created. This will form an Ecological Main Structure (EHS) between the IJssel and the Veluwerandmeren. Additionally, an area of about 30 hectare will actually be added to the Natura-2000 area that borders the Veluwerandmeren. This addition of Natura-2000 reserve is a brand new approach that is as of yet rarely seen in integral development projects.

By utilizing a nature-inclusive approach, potential negative effects on habitat areas can be compensated within the project, except the loss of habitat for meadow birds, who nest in farm land meadows (which are reduced in the plans). The province itself has a policy in place to deal with this – meadow bird compensation plan, or “Grutto zoekt Boer”- that the province considers successful but so far has not convinced all nature organizations – such as NMO. Additionally, the nature-inclusive approach expans upon and creates new habitats, leading to a potential increase in biodiversity and ecological values in the area.

While the core of the project location is not designated as habitat-protected space, it’s edges are. The shores of the Veluwerandmeren (Vossemeer, Ketelmeer and Drontermeer) have been designated Natura-2000 area as well as the shores of the river IJssel. When the bypass is created, the Veluwerandmeer shore will have to be penetrated in order to let the newly created river emerge in the Veluwerandmeren. A small – but significant for Natura 2000 legislation – amount of shore-based reeds, habitat to protected species great Bittern (roerdomp) and great reed warbler (grote karekiet), would be lost or affected. While this gave cause for concern due to the judicial consequences, the approach chosen at the start of project development had anticipated and provided potential solutions to cope with the loss of habitat. 

Where nature from the start was set as one of the goals – together with goals such as flood safety, housing, recreation – it allowed for a careful balance of these goals, anticipating upon loss of habitat for these goals. By striking a fair balance and including multiple goals, commitment could be created with the many different actors involved, as well as anticipate on potential judicial processes in later stages of the project development. Secondary goals – aside from flood safety – are essential for making the project happen at all by creating commitment and finding resources, as is the case with many integrated planning developments in the Netherlands (van Buuren, Edelenbos & Klijn, 2010). 

Through consultation with various experts, including Annelies Freriks, professor in nature protection law at the University of Utrecht, it was concluded that nature development on the basis of natural dynamics and ecological principles would be most successful in integrating nature with the various functions in the development area. Through these talks, the realization emerged that when the negative effects of the project could be compensated within the project plan itselfthere would be no external negative effects – perhaps even positive effects. This building with nature approach was supported by a report made earlier (van der Hut, 2009) that a dynamic system would lead to less significant effects on the populations of the great bittern and great reed warbler, stating that: “a large fluctuation in water level dynamics will create a greater variety in ecosystem quality, both in place and time, and gives potential to a higher diversity in flora and fauna” (van der Hut, 2009, p. 36, translation MS). From this point onwards, nature as a goal was not negotiable – nature was driving forwards the project even more than before, essential for project realization.

Overall, the plans have a large level of “nature inclusive” thinking in them and nature itself is considered essential for making the project a success – if not possible at al.

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