Sustainable development - Perkpolder ferry port, NL


Location: Nederland, Perkpolder
Date: 2004 - on hold
Involved parties: Rijkswaterstaat, Dienst Landelijk Gebied, Royal Haskoning, ComCoast, Province of Zeeland, Municipality of Hulst, real estate developers (AM, Bouwfonds Ontwikkeling).

Technology Readiness Level: 2 (sustainable approach developed)
Environment: Estuaries, Ports and Cities
Keywords: coastal development, flood protection, land development, building by nature, integral design


Building with Nature designTraditional design

The Building with Nature design approach is one in which all three P's are addressed; the People in terms of improved residential areas, the Planet by creating different natural areas with additional ecological value, and the Profit by adding extra economical value to the area, through residential, recreational and commercial activities.

In a traditional situation, most likely the solution would be to do nothing. Perhaps the Westerschelde dikes would have been raised to protect the land, but other than that the area would have been left to economic deterioration.


Initiation Phase

The Perkpolder used to be a busy ferry-port, but after construction of the Westerschelde tunnel somewhat further west the ferry connection was shut down and the terminal area started to degrade. The Dutch government (Rijkswaterstaat, the Province of Zeeland and the Municipality of Hulst) proposed a revitalization project to boost the local economy, to enhance the quality of life and to create additional nature areas as a compensation measure for other projects nearby. Additionally, authorities recognized the opportunity to integrate innovative flood protection into the design.

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The decision to revitalise the Perkpolder area was initiated by a cooperation of the local, provincial and national governments. They saw the opportunity of an integrated plan that would benefit the economy, the inhabitants and the environment.


Project Solution

The solution of the Perkpolder project includes an innovative flood protection scheme and an integral design, based on the vision named "enjoying the elements", in which living, recreation and nature are combined. The heart of the polder will become an exclusive residential complex and the eastern part will be turned into a nature reserve. Moreover, the whole polder will be protected against flooding following the principle of managed realignment: the old dike will be breached after a new one has been be built further inland and the area in between is left to nature and can serve as a floodplain to storm surges..
The BwN-dimension of this project lies in the innovative flood protection scheme and the integral design that combines socio-economic, infrastructural and environmental aspects.


Governance context

Governance concerning this project aims at collaboration. Different levels of government combined their forces to initiate the project and the planning, design and construction phases were executed by various parties in cooperation. Moreover, stakeholder and public participation has been integrated in the project from the beginning.

More information on the governance aspects in projects can be found on the Governance pages of the guideline.


Planning and Design Phase

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The first design of the project was created through a number of workshops. All parties involved contributed to in five creative ateliers. First an analysis of the area was made and secondly a revitalization strategy was developed. This approach kick-started the project and within three months an initial design had been made.
To release the creativity needed for an innovative design, it was necessary for the different parties to be open-minded and to give up their own preset ideas. Under the guidance of an independent panel chairman and in accordance with the principles of urban and rural development planning, this creativity resulted in an innovative and jointly supported plan.
From the beginning of the project, the public was regularly updated and asked to participate in the process. Communication with the local people stimulates their commitment to the project, even though it may take a lot of time.





The design of the Perkpolder project is part of an integrated regional development plan in which flood control, environmental and socio-economic factors are included in the design. The design consists of residential, recreational and nature areas. In the center of the area an exclusive residential complex will be created on top of a landfill. More recreation will be created by a marina, holiday residential units in the polder, an upgrade of the beach and a golf course. A nature reserve will be created in the east of the polder. Between the breached old dike and the new one a saltmarshes area will develop.
An integral part of the design is an innovative flood protection scheme that should provide protection for at least 50 years. The new dike, with landfills and beach upgrading, will protect the polder's inhabitants from flooding. Furthermore, the saltmarsh area will form a water storage buffer in front of Perkpolder. As this saltmarsh will regularly be flooded with sediment-laden sea water regularly, the marshes will gradually grow higher by sediment trapping (cf. the adjacent Land van Saeftinge, a saltmarsh area that has risen to the highest natural piece of land in the area). Thus the saltmarsh is expected to be able to keep up with the sea level. Shallowness and vegetation in the area will attenuate incoming waves, thus reducing wave attack on the dike. In the present design the western part of Perkpolder is reserved, such that the main dike can be raised in the future.



In the feasibility phase a feasibility study by landscape and real-estate developers was carried out, as well as a cost-benefit analysis. The latter showed that the project would add value to entire region. The creation of nature would positively affect the residential and recreational value; new jobs would be created and the environmental value would increase. The outcome of this analysis gave the various public entities a positive impulse to commit themselves to the realization of the project.



A joint communication strategy mainly focused on the broad public was part of the project. A sounding board included representatives of relevant social groups. Moreover, the local population was informed via information evenings, the project website and the Municipality’s newspaper.


BwN aspects

The design procedure for the Perkpolder project led to a multi-functional design with due attention for the natural component. The flood protection scheme with the dike realignment and the adaptive saltmarsh is an example of building with (and to a certain extent by) nature.


Construction Phase

The project is still in the planning phase. No construction planning has been made yet.


Operation and Maintenance Phase

Not applicable yet. 


Lessons Learned

Although  the project is still under development, a number of lessons have already been learned from the project, on the process as well as on the flood protection scheme.

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The structure to include all relevant parties in the process has the benefit that public and private parties will complement each other. If the parties are sufficiently motivated, this structure will lead within a short time to a creative and solid plan with broad support. Creativity tends to be enhanced in a positive process with people from different backgrounds, although it may take more time, especially due to cultural differences.
In the beginning of the project, creating commitment is the most important issue, later on a clear distribution of roles and responsibilities becomes more important. 
Apart from stakeholder involvement, participation of the public is key to the success of a complex project like this. Continuous communication on the progress, also via personal contacts, has led to broad commitment of the public to the Perkpolder project.
A properly designed cost-benefit analysis, taking a sufficiently wide and long-term perspective, proved very effective to create commitment and help decision making, especially in the public sector.


Flood protection

The Perkpolder flood protection scheme is expected to be successful because it is integrated within the regional development plan. A flood protection plan can have major environmental impacts (space claims, view, groundwater table, etc.), but if it is integrated in a multi-functional framework, it may work out positively. In the Perkpolder case, landfills and new nature areas will enable creating exclusive residential units in an attractive environment.



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ComCoast. 2007. Project Perkpolder. Project Management Perkpolder, Rijkswaterstaat DWW, Delft (in Dutch)