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Building with Nature Guideline > BwN Approach > Governance > Governance - Regulatory context 

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Governance - Regulatory context


BwN alternatives should not only be appealing and effective; they also need to fit into the existing legal framework.  BwN developers tend to be practical people with an ambiguous attitude towards bureaucracy and regulations. In particular, the Birds and Habitats Directives have created many negative feelings when they were called upon in national courts and a lot of projects were delayed or cancelled. However, ignoring legislation is not helpful. It can lead to a waste of time and money, and to damaged reputations and relations. Just like with the dentist, a rational and preventive approach will pay off. 


This section informs on how to scan regulations and respond to emerging regulatory barriers. The guidance is based on the Dutch context, where regulations are generally followed but are often amended with consensus based policy making. In other countries regulations may be more strict and hierarchical; or there may be two different realities: the regulatory reality on paper and the behaviour in practice. In all cases and places it is worthwhile to check the most important legal frameworks; to hire legal expertise in an early stage (and not when a project has run to the ground); and to ask around how legislation is used in practice.


The section  offers a general perspective on the structure of regulatory systems and the role of perceptions of regulations in project development processes. 

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In this section first a quick tour is given of how regulatory systems are structured. Next also provide guidance is given on how to map and monitor the legal aspects of BwN projects. Is is also explained how to handle (perceptions of) regulations strategically in order to seize regulatory opportunities and prevent regulatory barriers. Most of the guidance presented hereafter is based on a study of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. These nature directives aim at conservation of all species of naturally occurring birds in the wild state and natural habitats of wild flora and fauna in the European territory of the member states.


The section is structured along the following lines:


  • Structure of regulatory systems  Read more


  • How to keep regulation up to date?  Read more


  • How to deal with regulations in practice?  Read more


  • How and where to find or create ‘space for BwN’ in existing regulations / legislation?  Read more


  • Do’s and don’ts  Read more



Practical applications - examples

Comparison Zeewolde and Harderwijk projects, the Netherlands

A comparison between two very similar projects demonstrates how management of the regulatory system during the initiation an planning phases can be decisive for ‘success or failure’. 


The Veluwe Randmeren, i.e. the shallow lakes between the polder Flevoland and the mainland of the province of Gelderland, were designated as a protected area under the Birds and Habitats Directives in 2000 and 2003 (see Figure). Conservation objectives for Veluwe Randmeren were finalised in 2007. Two coastal developments took place in this area. The project in Harderwijk ‘Waterfront Noord’ included the relocation of an old industrial area, improvement of recreation and housing facilities, and strengthening the natural and water functions. The one in Zeewolde – on the other side of the lake – envisaged a park zone, two beaches, an island with recreational facilities connected to the shore by a bridge or a dam, and a row of islands that would create an open lagoon area between the islands and the shore.


Both municipalities argued that a loss of Natura 2000 protected area (8.5 ha in Harderwijk and 10 ha in Zeewolde) had no significant effect on the integrity of the relevant Natura 2000 site. Both authorities took into account the requirements of Habitat assessment, have argued that an appropriate assessment was not necessary and seemed to have integrated nature into their design. However, there was a slight difference on how they have done it, which eventually led the Supreme Dutch Administrative Court to reject the Harderwijk development in 2008 and approve the Zeewolde development in 2009.

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Kruibeke, Bazel, Rupelmonde flood control area, Flanders (Belgium)


In 1988 the polders of Kruibeke, Bazel and Rupelmonde were designated a special protection area (SPA) under the EU Birds Directive and in 1996 they were designated a special area of conservation (SAC) under the EU Habitats Directive (see Figure). However, the practical implications of these designations only became clear after another project, viz. the construction of a new tidal dock on the left bank of the river Scheldt (the Deurganck Dock) had been implemented.


Although Deurganck Dock received a lot of public and professional attention, the 35-year history of its compensation project – the Kruibeke, Bazel and Rupelmonde flood control area – is more interesting from a BwN-perspective. It illustrates how the actors’ learning strategies gradually broadened the project goals from flood defence to nature, the development of Antwerp harbour, and the goals of local stakeholders. Partly as a result of the involvement of Natura 2000, the project evolved towards a BwN-type design which balanced the conflicting interests of the past.

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