Implementing the Environmental Planning Act in Dutch municipalities


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Implementing the Environmental Planning Act in Dutch municipalities:

How does size matter?

Nick Kramer


June 11th 2018

Master Thesis: MSc Public Administration: Public Management

Faculty of Global Governance and Global Affairs

Leiden University

Thesis Supervisor: Prof. S.M. Groeneveld



Table of contents:

1. Introduction 3-7

2. The research setting: the Environmental Planning Act 8-16

2.1: Goals of the new act 8-9

2.2 The link to citizen participation and co-production 9-10

2.3: Cultural Change 11-12

2.4: Strategies for implementing the EPA 13-16

3. New Public Governance: Drawing in the Crowds 17-29

3.1: New Public Governance: Participation and Co-production 17-21

3.2: Positive and negative conditions for citizen participation and

co-production 21-24

3.3: The effect of size on the positive and negative conditions for citizen

engagement 24-26

3.4: The envisioned causal model 26-28

3.5: Propositions 28-29

4. Methodology 30-41

4.1: Research Design 30

4.2: Case Selection 30-34

4.3: Data collection 34-36

4.4: Operationalization 36-40

4.5: Reliability and Validity 40-41

5. Analysis 42-58

5.1: Strategies of smaller and larger municipalities 42-49 5.2: Explaining the variation in strategies between smaller and larger

municipalities 49-58

6. Conclusion 59-64


3 Chapter 1: Introduction

Lately the field of public administration in the western world has been confronted with a new paradigm shift from New Public Management (NPM) to New Public Governance (NPG).

NPM has had a profound impact on public administration as it stressed values of effectiveness, efficiency, narrow inputs, measurable outcomes, higher managerial control and a distance between policy making and implementation (Boyle & Harris 2009, 9-10; Brandsen & Honingh 2013, 880-881; Osborne 2006, 388-389). Government according to this view should be run in a business-like fashion and treat its citizens as customers similarly to what a business would do; the main focus is here on granting them good value for money. This system has reached some limits: as it became clear that effective is not necessarily efficient and several other problems surfaced, NPM was not able to give the high quality solutions that were envisioned; it put a high limitation on the choices that were available for citizens due to standardization drives to gain efficiency. Standardization has also led to a corrosion of the relation between government and citizen as face to face contacts became less prevalent (Boyle and Harris 2009, 6-9). A final problem that arose was the fact that closely adhering to the procedures and rules became more important than the quality of the outcome, for example hospitals getting paid per patient and not for the good result of the hospitalizations (Boyle & Harris 2009).

These problems along with the financial difficulties governments have been facing recently, have put pressure on NPM and led to a call for a new mode of public administration; this call has led to NPG. Here the vision of the plural state is dominant, it is connected to many different actors and the government is no longer solely responsible for producing, developing

and delivering goods and services. These are delivered by cooperation between the actors. (Osborne 2006, 384). In this new paradigm government attempts to treat its citizens not as customer but as a partner (Moynihan & Thomas 2013, 788-789). The partnership is envisioned as a way of doing more with less resources as citizens are involved in the production and delivery of services. By involving the public, products and services can be customized to fit ones needs and local on the ground knowledge and skills are envisioned to be complementary, leading to a higher quality outcome (Etgar 2008).



mode is seen as the way to mend the corroded links between government and public: responsiveness is key to this (Osborne 2006, 383-384). While this new paradigm sounds great there are still many questions as to how this can be implemented in practice and what

strategies do municipalities use for this? This thesis will take up that challenge.

The NPM problem of emphasizing the process over the outcome quality and corroded relationships described above are also visible in a very different policy. In spatial planning the introduction of communicative planning has led to a prominent place of debate in the decision-making process, but not to desired outcomes (Huxley 2000; Yiftachel 2009). In the Netherlands these problems have also been visible, the planning processes (big and small) have become slow and grinding. Deliberation takes up much time and there have been many ways and avenues to appeal when one does not agree with a reached decision. This has been one cause that has led to pressure on the Dutch planning system. Another pressure has been a limitation of choices as land-use plans are agreed upon for a very long term (10 years) and changes to them call for a long procedure. The municipality that is the primary force in these procedures used to work in a rather hierarchic fashion, checking what was possible and what wasn‟t with little leeway, this can be seen as limiting the available choices of the public.

These two factors have not helped in fostering trust amongst its citizens.

To address these issues a new planning act has been introduced. The new Dutch Environmental Planning Act (further on EPA) was accepted back in march 2016 (Staatsblad, 2016). The new act entails a broad terrain under the newly used concept of physical living environment (fysieke leefruimte) and it contains amongst others rules and regulations on the environment, building, planning and health. The major goals of the law are to speed up the permit granting process, be more responsive to citizen needs and increase the quality of the

living environment. This new act fits the mold of NPG neatly as it stresses trust, collaboration, flexibility and good outcomes but here also the implementation is still a huge question mark. The EPA will serve as the setting for this thesis to answers the following research question:

To what extent and how does municipal size affect the strategies for implementing the EPA?

Scientific Relevance



& Tummers 2014, 1334). Beyond the theoretical debates the question of how the proponents of NPG can be successfully introduced in practice and what variables are helpful or actually having a negative impact are not fully researched yet. The fact that many governments on

various levels propose reforms that embrace these concepts makes this question even more pressing (Voorberg, Bekkers & Tummers 2014). The care decentralizations are a recent Dutch example of the shift towards NPG; here the responsibility of providing care was shifted from the central government to local governments with the underlying idea that the closest government would be better able to judge what was needed by its citizens; so local governments got more room to make their own decisions and to some extent provide tailor-made care (within bounds).

Voorberg, Bekkers and Tummers make a distinction between two sides of participation namely that of the citizen side and what involves them and the organization side what allows for participation. This thesis will address the latter as it is focused on an organizational change forced by law. Their literature review found 122 total articles of which a 103 focussed on this side of participation (Voorberg, Bekkers & Tummers 2014, 1342). There clearly is still a lot of testing to be done on this side of participation.

The EPA is very relevant for the current shift in government as it also highlights NPG elements in its design such as an emphasis on effectiveness and integrality. It therefore is an epitome of the current movement of western governments. It promotes the new way without discarding the old way. In fact in this case they attempt to make them work together.

What makes the EPA organizationally an even more interesting scientific setting is that it

consists of an episode of forced change on a massive scale. Every Dutch municipality is forced to change with the new law as a stimulus, this means that around 380 organizations need to move in a broad similar direction. The act however also explicitly leaves room for local variation. Comparing some of these cases (municipalities) will give a unique chance in the effects of different contextual and contingency factors.

This thesis also addresses a policy-area that is often overlooked in public administration and public management academic writing. Most of the articles on government responsiveness, citizen engagement and co-production deal with areas like health-care, education and safety. The more public and social nature of these areas might be conducive to this difference, as planning is usually more private as it concerns one‟s own home or land it might be less



local authorities usually have primacy in local planning and thus share a strong connection to its inhabitants. Moreover it is a policy area that affects every single inhabitant as it concerns housing, health, recreation and many more areas. To my knowledge there has only been a

single article that explores the link between planning and co-production. Planning scholar Watson promotes the added value that coproduction could have for planning (Watson 2014). With this thesis I will attempt to fill in some these gaps.

Practical relevance

Being a municipal councilor in the municipality of Lopik I must admit to losing some sleep overnight on the implementation of the EPA: creating an integrated, flexible and responsive municipal organization is a huge challenge. The goals in itself are enviable, you cannot be against giving room to new initiatives and creating a user-friendly process; but what worries me is the enormous change that is needed, many of the areas that are described in the new law under the concept of physical living environment are at the moment separated in different departments, and these usually are not communicating with each other currently. While building-rules and environmental directives were already closely related in current planning acts, health for example is now seen as a completely different policy-area. How to integrate these sectors into cohesive, well working and communicating units will be a major challenge.

Figure 1.1: A visual representation of some of the policy-areas that will need to work more integrated

under the new EPA

Besides these more organizational concern there is an even bigger challenge: to grant more space and be responsive to citizens needs requires a different mind-set, it is no longer simply applying given rules but it means more actively engaging citizens and working together: in fancy words this is envisioned as a cultural change within municipal organizations, and that will ask a lot from civil servants, aldermen, local politicians and even the public itself, as how

Social Affairs

Building and Environm


Public Works Civil



things were done is envisioned to change. The change is on most levels wanted but how do you go about it is a major question that probably every municipality currently is struggling with. To add to this notion a recent VNG survey amongst municipal councilors showed that

practical knowledge on the EPA was not at a high level yet, many were inquiring about the effects of the law change (61.6%), requested general information about the law (57.3%), what the law meant for their role (44.1%) or when what needed to be done (35.9%). (VNG 2016a). The results show that more practical knowledge is highly needed at least at one level in the municipality.

A final major practical concern is that the law might be an overall failure and that many of the current documents, visions, rules and regulations will just be heaped on a massive pile with a new cover, and it will afterwards be business as usual. The delaying of the implementation phase is already not helping on that account and (former) Minister Schultz van Haegen also hinted at this in her interview by stating she wanted to keep the pressure on municipalities and force the change (Schultz van Haegen, 2017).


8 Chapter 2: The Research Setting: The Environmental Planning Act

2.1: Goals of the new Act

The new Environmental Planning Act (further on EPA) was agreed upon by parliament back in March 2016 (Staatsblad, 2016). This new act entails a broad terrain under the newly used

concept of physical living environment (fysieke leefruimte) and it contains amongst others rules and regulations on the environment, building, planning and health. The major goals of the law are to speed up the permit granting process, be more responsive to citizen needs, create room for experiments and new initiatives and above all make the procedures more user-friendly (Hoorn & Buitelaar, 2016). The new EPA attempts to do this by integrating of a host of separate sectoral laws and regulations into a single clearer law. In the new situation 26 laws, 120 governmental decrees (AmvBs) and 120 ministerial decrees would be reduced to a single law, 4 governmental decrees and approximately 10 ministerial decrees (Hoorn & Buitelaar, 2016).

Figure 2.1: a visual representation of the impact of the EPA

The process of agreeing on this new law has been and still is testing, especially in the negotiations between the central government, ministries and municipalities. The actual implementation of the new law therefore has been pushed back on several occasions first from January 2017 to July 2018. Most recently in an interview on 27th of July 2017 Minister Schultz van Haegen of infrastructure and environment stated that the implementation would be delayed and that the new date would still have to be agreed upon. In the interview she

26 Laws 120 GDs

120 MDs



1 Law, 4

GDs and

+_10 MDs



emphasized that the different regulations were not yet clear enough. The date was hard to determine as she did not want to rush the project and risk losing quality but on the other hand didn‟t want to decrease pressure on the municipalities to much as that could mean further

delays when implementing the new law (Schultz van Haegen, 2017). Currently the aim is to implement the law at the first of January 2021.

The muddy lawmaking process is already an indication of how hard it is to combine and integrate separate and different laws in many different policy areas. The delay is giving municipalities more time to really see how this new act will impact their organization.

As stated in the introduction this new law envisions four areas of improvement, these are: creating more room for local decision-making, being better able to develop citizen initiatives, speeding up the overall processes of planning and regulations and allow governments (Municipalities and Provinces) to develop a more integral approach in their decision-making process (see figure 2.2). The goals are interesting as they entail a combination of NPM features like increased efficiency and clarity and NPG features of increased citizen participation.

More local room for decisions More able to develop initiatives Faster processes Integral Decision-making

Figure 2.2: The 4 areas of improvement of the Dutch Environmental Planning Act. Adapted from: Basisgids omgevingswet, power point 2, sheet 4. Retrieved from:

2.2 The link to citizen participation and co-production



Increasing local decision-making is a key part of this as in theory this allows the municipality to set special aims that apply to their local situation. As it is envisioned now the national rules will be brought to the municipality with a bit of band-with. The national level sets a host of

rules containing standard measures and the municipality can either be more ambitious or less ambitious. In the end the plusses and minuses must add-up to an improvement overall. To clarify this approach the analogy of a mixing panel is used with some slides turned up and others turned down, but in the end the piece of music must sound good (See figure 3). Finally the municipality is also allowed to set additional rules for example on light pollution.

Figure 2.3: The mixing panel of rules. Retrieved from: Basisgids Omgevingswet (

The great change that this system brings is that an initiative doesn‟t need to check all the rule boxes by default anymore but they can adhere to a certain degree and can also compensate for

certain shortcomings (Aan de slag met de omgevingswet 2017, 41). One downside of this approach is that decision on rules van vary between different municipalities and that might not help to clarify the rule set all together.



most important. This clashes with the earlier system where if one standard was not met the whole plan would fail, and a new plan would have to be started from scratch. This new mind-set needs to be practiced and takes a while to mind-set in.

2.3: Cultural Change

The EPA calls for a big cultural change in how the municipalities go about their way. Internally as I showed above several changes are needed. First of all the rules need to be inventoried, measured and reviewed in order for the streamlining process to work. Second increased integrality calls for a closer cooperation within the municipalities, no longer can division be closed of sectors as they need to be integrated and make considerations together. This might lead to different working arrangements and options can also be vary from one municipality to another. Some might choose to create standard work teams, others might opt for more integral meetings while still others choose to implement loose project groups, just to name some options. These first two changes are really more focused on the NPM principals of efficiency and effectiveness. The third change shows that the new act calls for a much more active civil-servant who looks at solutions and makes considerations amongst a host of options. New competencies might be called for here. This side really embraces the NPG concepts of creating value(s) that transcends efficiency and effectiveness. These three changes all were more emphasizing the internal workings and decision-making arrangements within the municipality.

Beside the envisioned changes internally, there are big changes planned externally as well. We saw that one of the key aims of the EPA was for government to become more responsive

to citizen needs. A much quoted saying emphasizes this change: the new law envisions a change “from no unless to yes if”( Janssen 2017; 2014). The quote implies a

more positive approach to spatial planning as a lot is envisioned to be possible, and no longer hosts of actors need to be convinced for minor deviations of current rules to be approved. (Janssen 2017). Most of the rules are envisioned to be agreed upon within a municipal environmental plan. This plan needs to be more responsive and not be set in stone. (Aan de slag met de omgevingswet 2017, 40-41). All the municipalities have to make this plan for their own territory and it needs to be accorded by the municipal council. A current development is that also meetings are taking place at the inter municipal or regional level.



needed to get a good picture of these needs. The forming of the plan is not the only place in which public participation is needed. As the environmental plan is promoted to be very dynamic it implies that ongoing consultation and cooperation is needed.

To make a good consideration within the rules (as mentioned above) for each initiative a strong link between the municipality and the citizen is needed. In the ideal situation citizen initiatives are viewed to be ongoing processes instead of a single checks of fit. When a citizen comes with an (spatial) idea he further develops this in cooperation with the municipal alderman and civil servants. In the new act the citizen who filed a request is also required to participate throughout the further process (Aan de slag met de omgevingswet 2017, 53-54). This situation resembles a reciprocal co-production process (Boyle & Harris 2009). It implies that civil servants will need to be much more open-minded when dealing with citizens and that might call for completely different skillset. As Tuurnas stresses participation really is a skill that takes some time to develop, as well on the citizens side as on the civil service side (Tuurnas 2015). Starting sooner than later definatly seems to be the best way forward. All in all a lot of change is to be expected from the implementation of the EPA. A main question is how to install this cooperative sense on both sides. Trust will need to be built up over time to foster it. And the municipality cannot have a reputation for being uncooperative.

2.4: Strategies for implementing the EPA

To help municipalities with implementing this new law the VNG has introduced several strategies of how to implement the EPA, these are rough cut as the axis do not mutually exclude each other, but the model can enlighten us on how different municipalities can



The second axis determines how much a municipality is willing to change, is it beforehand embracing the change and willing to go far in this or is it looking to only slightly adapt.

Figure 2.4: a visual representation of the VNG implementation ambitions. Adapted from VNG. (2016). Bewust kiezen voor de meest passende aanpak. VNG p. 4. Retrieved from:

Combining the position on the two different axis will determine the ambition level of the municipality and that is matched with a implementation strategy shown in the quadrants of the model, for an example internal focus and an adjustment focus will give a consolidating strategy (strategy 1) here the municipality operates defensively and only makes minor

Internal Focus

External Focus Focus on




adjustments to their organization. A municipality that has an internal focus but embraces the changes strongly as a measure to improve its organization chooses the calculating strategy (strategy 2). Here the municipality embraces change and looks to really improve its inner

workings. Again these two strategies seem to converge more with the NPM values of efficiency and effectiveness. These strategies do not seek to embrace the NPG values of becoming more responsive and cooperative.

When a municipality has an external focus it is more likely to implement NPG features as it actively seeks to draw in the public with initiatives and decision-making. A municipality that combines this external focus with an adjustment focus will choose the distinguishing strategy (strategy 3). Hereby it actively seeks to engage it public but does not want to completely change its inner workings. This strategy can be seen as more defensive than the innovative strategy (strategy 4) in which municipalities actively seek to engage its citizens but also want to strongly change their inner workings. The four strategies distinguish themselves by the level of ambition with strategy one being the least ambitious and strategy 4 being the most ambitious. With these final two strategies the municipality the municipality tries to embrace the NPG values of cooperation and participation fully. These strategies are at a first glance more ambitious that the first two strategies.

When setting its ambition level(s) and choosing a corresponding strategy for implementing the EPA the VNG advises municipalities to first look at their ambition and ask questions like what do I want to get out of this new law? Do we want to continue to work as much as we do now, that would imply a more defensive strategy. On the other hand embracing the change would imply a much more offensive strategy (VNG 2016, 3). An important point to take away from the model is that there are many different options available for municipalities and that



Not quite incidentally the considerations that determine the strategy also correspond strongly to the variables we saw in the previous chapter and the ones we shall see in the next chapter. The factors that impact the choices also link with the focus on small and large municipalities

in this thesis. As smaller municipalities are expected to have less resources, a smaller bureaucracy and a less specialized bureaucracy. Smaller size might also have a direct impact on the level of participation of citizens through closer communities (Irvin & Stansbury 2004; Poteete & Ostrom 2004). The different strategies therefore are a great tool to focus and conduct this study. As municipalities are familiar with these it can serve as a base for the questions that will be asked in the different interviews in this research project. It can help clarify our research subject.

The model however is not a silver bullet as different municipalities have many more options available. A municipality for example might also try to combine the strategies, first focusing on changing its own inner working and after that is in order focusing citizen engagement.


16 Chapter 3: New Public Governance: Drawing in the crowds

This chapter will delve deeper into the literature of new public governance and its components of citizen participation, co-production and co-creation. It will give an overview of the most used definitions of these concepts and go more into detail about the different forms that these concepts can appear in. After that an overview of potential risks and benefits will be given. This is followed by an assessment of positive and negative conditions to implementing more governmental responsiveness (in the form of citizen participation and co-production).

3.1: New Public Governance: Participation and Co-production

As mentioned above New Public Governance (NPG) started as a challenge to NPM, it allowed both practitioners and academics to place a wider range of values at the center of policy-making than was the case with NPM‟s narrow focus on efficiency and input control. NPG consists a few core feature of public governance that are important for building trust and

legitimacy and which are ignored and/or undervalued by NPM. Firstly common values are at the core of NPG. The government is to reach solutions that support the common good, not just


17 Citizen Participation

Participation is a widely used concept, Roughly two different types of participation can be discerned, customer participation that focuses more on a business-like involvement in

developing customized products (Dong, Evans & Zhou 2008). And on the other hand Public Participation where citizens are actively involved in policy-making by the government. Wang & Van Wart (2007) define this concept as “greater citizen access to and the involvement in the policies and operations of government-related activities, ranging from voting and running

for local office to responding to government surveys and attending public hearings” (Wang & Van Wart, 2007, p. 265). As the definition shows there are many forms and levels of participation. Arnstein in her famous article envisioned a ladder of participation containing eight different steps ranging from manipulation where the citizens has a very low amount of control up to „citizen control‟ in which the public is the dominant actor and holds most power.

Figure 3.1: An adaptation of Arnstein's (1969, 217) ladder of participation

At the stage of non-participation, with the steps therapy and manipulation government doesn‟t want to involve the wider public, though they might attempt to construct a façade of involvement. At the stage of tokenism more participation is wanted here the citizens are heard and consulted but they lack any serious power in the decision-making process. Their influence

Degree of citizen control

- Citizen Control -Delegated Power


Degree of tokenism

-Placation -Consultation





is determined by the mercy of the powerful. Placation is the most extreme form because the ground rules of the process call for involvement. The final stage citizen control is where the power shifts and is shared to varying degrees by the public and government (Arnstein 1969,


This ladder will serve as a tool to place the required level of participation for implementing the EPA. The EPA is envisioned to push environmental planning somewhat higher up the ladder, as a high degree of active participation is envisioned and needed. For making larger plans consultation and placation will be needed while for individual cases partnership and delegated power seem to be the right avenue.


Co-production is envisioned to be a deeper form of citizen participation, with Arnstein ladder in mind these processes will be at the highest stage of the ladder. Co-production has been defined in a multitude of way in the literature and through time (Nabatchi, Sancino & Sicilia

2017, 768; Vanleene, Verschueren & Voets 2015, 4). An often used definition is that of Parks et al.: “Co-production involves a mixing of the productive efforts of regular and consumer producers. This mixing may occur directly, involving coordinated efforts in the same

production process, or indirectly through independent, yet related efforts of the regular

producers and consumer producers” (1981, 1002 cited in Vanleene, Verschueren & Voets

2015, 4). This definition focusses more on a business relationship while many other definitions focus more on the government citizen relationship (Bovaird 2007, 847; Joshi & Moore 2006, 40; ). Pestoff posits: “Co-production provides a model for the mix of both public service agents and citizens who contribute to the provision of a public service” (Pestoff 2009, 197). A main characteristics in this relationship is that a degree of power is shifted for the government to the public and a reciprocal relation is formed (Boyle & Harris 2009, 11).

Another main characteristic of co-production is a focus on synergy between government representatives and outsiders. Ostrom emphasizes this phenomenon by stating: “No

government can be efficient and equitable without considerable input from citizens.

Synergetic outcomes can be fostered to a much greater extent than our academic barriers



In conclusion by taking into account all these different definitions of co-production we can sum up that co-production is built around the involvement of outsiders in a host of policymaking, planning and delivery processes with the goal of creating synergy through

citizen input. As the concept is very broad and entails many activities and actors Nabatchi, Sancino and Sicilia suggest we use it as an umbrella concept that needs to be worked out further (Nabatchi, Sancino & Sicilia 2017, 769). I will attempt to do this in the following section.

Types of Co-production and Participation

Co-production and participation can be categorized by various characteristics like who is involved in the process and whether the benefits are enjoyed by the individual or by the larger community. The EPA is a bit both in this respect as a beautiful environment is subjective but can potentially be enjoyed by the larger community but most planning processes are more individual, it is a person who wants to do something with his land.

Moreover as mentioned above there are many activities that fall under the umbrella of co-production and participation, Arnstein hints at this with the ladder of participation (Arnstein 1969). Bovaird & Loeffler come up with seven different activities and examples that fall within production: planning, design, financing, prioritizing, managing, co-delivery and co-evaluation. Each emphasizes a different way in which the public is engaged. In co-planning citizens are asked to actively share their wishes and ideas for a certain plan or policy (upfront) Collaborative planning also falls under this aegis. In co-design a policy or plan is formulated with the citizens. In co-financing the government partly finances a project,

plan or policy, the other part is financed by the citizen. Co-prioritizing gives the citizen the possibility to set the policy agenda (or part of a budget) to address their most pressing issues. In co-managing the government and citizens jointly run a specific project often for a longer period of time. With co-delivery the government and citizens jointly deliver a certain service also often for a longer period of time. Finally in co-evaluation the citizens are invited to share their ideas and experiences of a certain policy after it has been running for a while (Bovaird & Loeffler, 2012).

In general the actions do resemble each other somewhat (co-planning and co-design) and clear cuts can‟t always be made as some of the actions will be combined to get the maximum



arrangements to increase responsiveness towards citizens. They are therefore also expected to be a part of the chosen governmental strategy while implementing the EPA. Former experience with these actions can have an effect on the chosen strategy. For the EPA

co-financing, co-planning, co-prioritizing and co-design look especially usable as these touch on developing (land-use) plans and determining urgent problems.

3.2: Positive and negative conditions for citizen participation and co-production

In the literature many conditions that can influence the sustainability of a collaborative process are described. These include rules and regulations, clear commitments between government and citizens, the skills that are need on the citizen and government side, interest in the subject and push and pull factors and finally living conditions and social ties (rural, large groups etc.) are mentioned. This section will work out these conditions in more detail (Irvin & Stansbury Ostrom 1996). In her seminal article „crossing the great divide‟ Elinor Ostrom examined several co-production schemes in the developing world. From these cases she drew several favorable results from co-production and citizen participation processes. These were the taking away of legal obstacles and a fast and efficient system of dealing with citizen initiatives. This notion ties in greatly with the goals of the EPA that envisions just that efficiency (Ostrom 1996, 1082).

A first favorable condition is providing a process that makes clear and reciprocal commitments between the government and the public. This is thought to up the stakes for both parties this condition is also voiced by several other authors (Boyle & Harris 2009, 22-23; Ostrom 1996, 1082). Moynihan & Thomas went very far with their view on reciprocity,



The nature of the process is having a big impact on whether citizen participation or co-production can be sustained. If the process is very hard, complex and increasingly technical participation will not be optimal as potential participants might be scared-off by the

magnitude of the task(s) at hand (Bovaird et al. 2015, 16; Irvin & Stansbury 2004, 62). The EPA is looking to be a troublesome case in this respect as the policy field of environmental planning is rather complex and consists of a great bulk of rules and regulations. Further there might be a difference for the kind of citizens that the municipality has, affluent and educated citizens are be expected to be more active and understanding (Alford 2002, 50-51; Irvine & Stansbury 2004, 62). Finally providing citizens with assistance and information might help them overcome this barrier of knowledge, but it still looks to be a challenge (Alford 2002, 50; Jakobsen 2013; Porter 2012). Supplying a user friendly system of information sharing in this policy area might also be much needed as this can lower the costs of obtaining information and knowledge decreases (Meijer 2012). As the resources available to municipalities for informing its inhabitants is expected to be different for larger and smaller municipalities, it is quite possible that they will make very different choices in this respect. This thesis will delve further into this.

In a similar way not only the skills of the citizens are a precondition but participation and co-production also requires much of the professional or the civil servant. For example they really need to engage it‟s potential partners and look into the citizen or other partner‟s needs.

Government attempts to draw in citizens and first time initiations have had a positive effect on participation (Buckwalter 2014; Jakobsen, 2013; Marschall 2006). Tuurnas cited a civil servant that was working in a Finish co-production process as stating,” – why do we have to

turn on our professional brains? We might as well position ourselves as residents: What

would I want? Would I really participate in such and such?” (Tuurnas 2015, 589). This perfectly sums up the need of an open mind and the need for empathy. Good communication skills are an absolute necessity in these processes (Brandsen & Honingh 2015, 882). Moreover the ability to network and connect with partners is needed, a sectoral deep subject knowledge is no longer the only requisite to arrive at a good solution. What is needed is shared and dispersed knowledge and higher levels of interactions between civil servants (Brandsen & Honingh 2015, 882; Tuurnas 2015, 590). The EPA seems to emphasize these notion with its call for a more integral approach to the living environment



Another important condition for implementing participation and co-production is that of interest: is the public actually interested in the subject at hand. Irvin & Stansbury (2004) are rather skeptical here and state that a large part of the public is complacent in a great host of

policy issues. Their research on a failed participatory scheme for the management of a watershed showed that it is very hard to bring together different parties for a not very salient subject. People did not want to invest time in the process and did not feel strongly about it. Huitema (1998, 223) came to the same conclusion as he stated “it is hard to motivate citizens to become involved in a highly participatory process” (cited in Irvin & Stansbury 2004, 61). These studies mostly treated on group processes while the EPA will mostly deal with individual citizen needs as it is mostly about how their land can be used and what their direct living space will be a strong motivator. Individual processes give a different set of calculations to participate (Bovaird et al. 2015). Breaking the complacency gridlock can be done when there is a high sense of urgency or even a crisis experience for the individual. Serving self-needs is seen to be highly motivational and can come close to this sense of crisis. Getting personal benefits is often shown to be a key driver to co-produce (Irvine & Stansbury 2004, 62; Moynihan & Thomas 2013). Bovaird et al (2015, 19) stresses the need to come up with creative, attractive and imaginative ways to let citizens be more group inclined in their co-production efforts. A mixture of material incentives needs always to be provided (Moynihan & Thomas, 2013, 792). Some authors also point out that government initiatives such as making available helpful materials can make a difference (Jakobsen 2013). This is one of the greatest challenges that the Dutch municipalities will face when implementing the EPA.

A final condition that is mentioned in the literature is the living space of the inhabitant, the



(Poteete & Ostrom 2004, 453-455). This confirms that also for the implementation of the EPA there are no one size fits all solutions, at the same time a contingent solution gives an additional problem of predictability as there are many options available to municipalities. It is

therefore also expected that the different municipalities (in size amongst others) will make different choices.

In line with this the type of living area and social ties also seems to have some effect on participation. This is especially interesting for this thesis as small municipalities tend to be rural of character while that larger ones tend to be more densely populated rural areas. Living in a rural area is often seen as having a negative influence on the sense of community, as ties are less strong and based on interest rather than on background (like religion, age and closeness) (Stadelmann-Steffen & Freitag 2011). Hooghe & Botterman (2012) did not find a significant impact of rural living on the participation in voluntary organizations but did find a significant effect of belonging to a religion and take part in church services. The effect of these for citizen-government participation and co-production are not thoroughly examined yet but there are some preliminary results. Bovaird et al (2015) found that living in an urban area had a significant but minor positive effect on individual co-production willingness, but did not find strong evidence for an effect on group participation. The results show that this is an interesting area to explore in this thesis as much is still unclear as of yet.

3.3: The effect of size on the positive and negative conditions for citizen engagement

Some of the conditions described above are a given, the complexity of the subject for example

holds true for each municipality spatial planning and environmental law are inherently rather complex. It is up to the lawmakers to make the EPA as understandable as possible. Some of



inhabitants) has more households and is more likely to house a high school. This thesis assumes therefore that large municipalities have more resources available. This is strengthened by the fact that larger municipalities also have a larger capacity to attract loans

(VNG 2015, 180-182). The amount of resources has an impact on the way civil participation can be implemented. As we saw above resources were a great necessity to make citizen participation and co-production processes successful. It can also mean that larger municipalities de facto can introduce many more processes and can build up experience through that. Resources can also allow municipalities to invest more heavily in projects as a measure of co-financing and have more money available to oil certain projects. Finally having more financial resources can allow a municipality to attract more external temporary experts.

Resources are not only financial and also technology is seen as being very important. A modern up to date IT system that is easy to use has been shown to make citizen engagement much easier (Meijer 2014). The EPA is determined to work with a system that is easy to use and accessible for citizens. Developing and running such a system however is very costly, so costly that municipal cooperation might be needed for the smaller municipalities to provide for this.

This notion of scale also has influence on the municipal workforce, a larger municipality by having more inhabitants can also afford and is expected to have a larger workforce. However not only scale has an influence on this, even when looking at the amount of civil servants per thousand inhabitant the larger cities are high on the list (Bekkers 2008). So in absolute and relative sense larger municipalities have a larger workforce. This can have a big impact on implementing citizen participation. Small municipalities by having less civil servants are much more vulnerable as they often only have one employee in a particular function while

larger municipalities often have multiple. This allows larger municipalities to have a larger degree of continuity. Tuurnaas (2015) mentioned the importance of learning how to co-produce but as mentioned above the larger municipalities also have a greater chance of running more citizen participation and co-production schemes and therefore build up more expertise through those projects, a smaller municipality through its size will need to be more selective. There can also be more information exchange between civil servants in the larger municipalities.



skills through courses, programs etc. Good employees in small municipalities also tend to transfer to larger municipalities for these reasons too. Also a higher salary has a major impact (Oostrom-van der Meijden & Leijs 2010, 18). It is also the question whether a given

municipality has enough skilled and expert civil servants within its workforce, if not external help might be needed. If that is the case the notion above of resources comes into the picture again. With limited resources municipalities might be more selective in what to focus on when setting their ambition levels.

Not everything that is big is good however the civil corps in smaller municipalities while being less experts are more generalists and more able to do a lot of things. Especially for working more integral this could be an advantage as lines are shorter and there are less people in total (us knows us). This notion is also true for co-production processes, having a closer and more familiar community is seen as a major positive factor for installing citizen participation and co-production processes (Irvin & Stansbury 2004, 62; Ostrom 1990, Poteete & Ostrom, 2004, 439-442). To add to this larger municipalities also tend to be much more diverse which makes co-operation much harder to coordinate as multiple experiences and values can clash. Also in the Netherlands the smaller rural areas tend to have closer more collective (religious and organizational) communities, Stadelmann-Steffen & Freitag (2011) saw this as an important connector between people.

In conclusion size is expected to have a large impact on the ambitions and ability to choose an external focus, with a possibility for higher degrees of citizen participation and co-production and more responsiveness for municipalities. It will be interesting how the factors mentioned above impact the choices a given municipalities makes.

3.4: The envisioned causal model.



strategy moreover it grants you more options to fund and oil participation projects and finally allow you to more easily run and develop a usable ICT System and attract external experts.

Figure 3.2: A graphical representation of the impact of size on EPA implementation choices.

Size is also expected to have an impact on the workforce of a municipality. A larger municipality is expected to operate on a larger scale and therefore be larger on a whole. This allows for more specialization and allows the municipality to run more projects and gain experience through that. The workforce and resources are also connected as more monetary resources will allow for more easily attracting more external experts. Size can also affect the internal workings of the municipality as being larger will require a different and more layered organization form. Being small has an advantage for increasing integrality as people are already more familiar with each other.




Type of community



Size finally is also expected to have an impact on the closeness of the community. Us knows us is more readily available in smaller and closed societies. Moreover small communities tend to be more homogenous. Religion and organizational life might play a strong connecting role

in the smaller communities.

Size in this project will be the independent variable as it is expected to have an influence on the three different main variables: resources, civil service corps and the type of community for various reasons stated above. Those three factors are predicted to have a major impact on the dependent variable; The ambition level of a given municipality and the corresponding strategy (internal focus or external focus) as determined by the VNG model. In this model citizen participation and co-production elements are imagined to be much more prevalent if an outward focus is chosen as the ambition of a municipality.

3.5: Propositions

Having described this thesis‟ imagined causal model and through that model the expected

effect of municipal size on implementation ambition and the respective strategies. We can now offer some tentative expectations in the shape of propositions. In general small and large municipalities are expected to be radically different and direct opposites.

P1: Size is expected to have a strong effect on resources (the larger the more resources) and resource are much needed to effectively run an ambitious strategy. In this respect larger municipalities are expected to be better able to be more ambitious and have embrace the possibilities of the EPA more readily. Based on this I expect to see the distinguishing and innovative strategy in the larger municipalities. On the other hand smaller municipalities are therefore expected to be less able to choose an ambitious strategy and are expected to be more conservative and choose a strategy accordingly. This would lead to the consolidating or calculating strategy.

P2: Municipality size is expected to have an effect on the expertise and size of the municipal civil service corps (the bigger the municipality the larger and more expertized the corps). Big municipalities are expected to be less vulnerable and more offensive and ambitious while implementing the EPA. Therefore I expect the larger municipalities to employ the



to be less likely to choose an outward focus when implementing the EPA. This would lead to the consolidating or calculating strategy.

P3: Municipal size is expected to have an effect on the kind of society a municipality finds

within its soil. Large municipalities are expected to have more remote links with their inhabitants, and also among their inhabitants. The lose ties will make implementing the outward focus much more challenging in larger municipalities. This is expected to lead to a less ambitious strategy (consolidating or calculating). Smaller municipalities are expected to have tighter links (us knows us). Those links are also more often more set and institutionalized (for example through religion). Closer ties to and between citizens will make and outward focus easier to implement so in this area the distinguishing or innovative strategy might be more reasonable to apply.


29 Chapter 4: Methodology

This chapter will set out the research methodology used in this research project. In the first section the research design will be described. In the second section the case selection will be explained and presented, the third section will set out the way the data is collected. The fourth section will operationalize the various variables used in this research project and give indicators for each of these variables. The final section will go into the issue of validity and reliability for this study.

4.1: Research design

The central focus of this thesis is a comparison between municipalities. Size is the prime distinction as we want to investigate its effect on the EPA implementation process. As the implementation of the EPA is still a developing research setting and as we are still in an infant stage of the process, this topic and setting lends itself well for a more explorative research method. The propositions are more tentative in that sense as we cannot yet test strong hypotheses. The method that suits these needs is a small-N comparative study, by which we study the effect of size on municipal ambitions and strategies (Toshkov 2016, 259-260). By comparing municipalities that differ in size but are similar in other relevant aspects like being located in the province of Utrecht, we can see if size really matters in the setting of the EPA. As this is a rather new topic that has not yet been studied up closely an small-N comparative study is fitting. The aim is to cast a wide net and draw some tentative first conclusions in order to get more data to formulate a theory

4.2: Case Selection

In the Netherlands the province still has a large role in organizing and coordinating

environmental and spatial planning. The choices a municipality can make are limited by what the province has determined. To control for this fact and for the larger regional variations I have chosen to focus this research project within a single province.



progress however is expected to vary from case to case, with some of the municipalities being front runners while others will lag behind.

A import selection criteria is size by the amount of inhabitants, this is the prime measurement

used to capture municipal size in the Netherlands. One of the most important differences here will be municipal size. Size is chosen as a vital component as it is related to many different variations (as chapter 3 showed). Size is of course a very relative concept and to come to a rigid measurement the categorization of municipal size as determined by the ministry of home affairs is it will be used. Under 20.000 is seen as small in this study, from 20.001 up to 55.000 is seen as medium and 55.001 and over is seen as large. In the In the Netherlands there currently are 27 municipalities who have 100.000+ inhabitants. While there are around 300 municipalities with less than 40.000 inhabitants (Ernst 2017).

The amount of inhabitants is not the only determining factor for size; therefore additional and factor will be taken into account. These are for example the population density within a municipality, the amount of villages within a municipality and the total territory of the municipality. The goal is to select cases in such a way that there are different types of municipalities within each of the size classes. This will add variety to the findings of this study.

As mentioned above the amount of settlements a municipality has within its territory can also play an important role. Settlement often vary in character and that variation might have a large impact on participation strategies. By selecting municipalities that have a different amount of settlements in each of the classes we can control for this fact. A fourth criteria is

the amount of territory a municipality has, this determines the balance between urban and more rural areas within a municipality. The fifth criteria also addresses this rural and urban balance. The feature is known as inhabitant density, it is formed by a combination territory size and amount of inhabitants. You can calculate this number by dividing the amount of inhabitants by the size of the territory in km². By using this set of criteria we can be assured that a good balance of different municipalities is selected. It also controls for features other than the amount of inhabitants.



examples. This is offset with the availability of very low dense areas like Lopik, Renswoude and Eemnes. Many municipalities also exhibit an interesting combination between high density areas and low density areas here there are high populated cores with low populated

rural backlands examples are Woerden, Stichtse Vecht and Ronde Venen.

Figure 4.1: The inhabitant density of Utrecht: Retrieved from:

A final important feature of Utrecht is that it has a fair amount of municipalities with varied amounts of settlements. Lopik, Stichtse Vecht and Ronde Venen all have a high amount, while Renswoude, Utrecht and Nieuwegein have a very low amount of settlements.



Municipality Size:


Territory (in km²) Density (Inhabitans

divided by territory)

Number of Settlements

Utrecht G4 94.93 Large 3650 Low

Zeist Large 48.45 Medium 1296 Medium

Stichtse Vecht Large 96.62 Large 666 High

Woerden Medium 89.35Large 577 Medium

De Ronde Venen

Medium 116.98 Large 929 High

Lopik Small 75.75 Large 188 High

Woudenberg Small 36.53 Medium 350 Low

Renswoude Small 18.42 Small 278 Low

Table 4.1: The selected cases.

G4 sized municipality:

Utrecht is the largest municipality within the province of Utrecht. It is one of the four largest municipalities in the Netherlands. It has a total of 344.384 inhabitants and can be considered a large city. It consists of three settlements Utrecht, de Meern and Vleuten. It has a relatively large territory with 94.93 km². Utrecht is also a very dense municipality with 3650 inhabitants per km². Because of its huge size in comparison to the other big municipalities, I have decided to introduce a fourth class of municipal size. It would not be methodologically sound to put together Utrecht with municipalities that are six times smaller. Utrecht is a special case

because of that size and only four municipalities in the Netherlands are somewhat comparable to it, therefore in the province of Utrecht it deserves its own class.

Large sized municipalities:



consists of a total of 12 settlements, amongst those Maarssen and Breukelen are the largest. Stichtse Vecht has a relatively large territory of 96.62 km². It has a relatively low density for this class as it has 666 inhabitants per km². The final municipality in the large class is Zeist is

the 4th largest municipality in Utrecht, it has 62.894 inhabitants. It is made up out of five settlements, Zeist, Austerlitz, Bosch and Duin, Den Dolder and Huis ter Heide. It has the smallest territory in the large class with a total territory of 48.45 km². It has a relatively high density with 1296 inhabitants per km².

Medium sized municipalities

The class of medium size is made up by two municipalities, De Ronde Venen and Woerden. Woerden is the largest municipality in this class as it has 51.622 inhabitants. It is formed by 4 settlements of which Woerden is the largest. It has a relatively large territory that consists of 92.92 km². It has a medium density with 588 inhabitants per km². The final case in this class is de Ronde Venen. The Ronde Venen is the smallest municipality in this class with 42.969 inhabitants. It is made up out of 8 settlements. It has by far the largest territory in this class with 116.98 km². It has the lowest density with 426 inhabitant per km².

Small sized municipalities:

The class of small municipalities is made up by the municipalities of Lopik, Woudenberg and Renswoude. Lopik is the largest municipality in this class with 14.290 inhabitants. It consists of 9 settlement of which Lopik is the largest. Lopik has a relatively large territory of 78.98 km². It has a relatively low density with 189 inhabitant per km². Woudenberg is the second largest municipality in this category with 12.815 inhabitants. It consists of 2 settlements, Woudenberg and Moorst. It has a total territory of 36.82 km². And for this class it has a

relatively high density of 351 inhabitants per km². The final case in this category is Renswoude. Renswoude is the smallest municipality in the province of Utrecht with 5.136 inhabitants. It is made up of the single core of Renswoude. It has a relatively small territory of 18.51 km². It has a density of 279 inhabitants per km².

4.3: Data collection



process. General knowledge might not be developed enough to use large-N research methods at this moment. To deal with this challenge and variance the data will be collected by conducting interviews with respondents who directly work with the implementation of the

EPA, and are responsible for the process. Interviews are especially valid here for various reasons, firstly the process is in an early stage, so many in depth documents on experiences cannot be available yet. Secondly perceptions play a major role in this process for example vulnerability of a civil service corps can‟t be easily deduced from looking at the number of

employees. This study is concerned with many of such social phenomenon getting a firsthand account of experiences is therefore very valuable.

The interviews will be conducted with two different respondents within a municipality. These respondents are the aldermen and a higher civil servant, who both are responsible for implementing the EPA. These persons are chosen as the alderman is the political head of the municipal organization and holds the end responsibility while the civil servant is doing the actual practical work. The combination will give a nice insight in the workings of the municipality and provide balance. The interview questions will be formed from the variables that we discerned in the theoretical section. The interview will be transcripted word by word in order to make a good and deep analysis possible. Finally the interviews will be held in Dutch, just as the transcripts. This is done out of practical concerns as some of the respondents might not be comfortable speaking English. Also many of the terms and jargon is specific to the Dutch case which makes answering in English even harder. This choice has the effect that quotes therefore will be translations, which brings the risk of misquotation. Translations therefore need to be conducted with utmost care and in consultation with the




concepts and effect will be formed and from that the analysis will be performed (Charmaz 2006; Strauss & Corbin 1998).

Interview guideline

In the interviews we will try to investigate the link between municipal size and the choice for a certain strategy. Next to that we will investigate several ways in which municipal size could have an impact. A main concern for the interviews is the fact that the respondent should not be led towards a certain answer. After the introduction in which the EPA and its impact on the municipality will be investigated, the first question will be: which strategy has the municipality chosen when implementing the EPA. This will give the respondent room to give any answer without being primed towards certain aspects. After this question the various

concepts: resources, workforce and community will be asked for in depth.

4.4: Operationalization Employed strategies

As mentioned in chapter 2 the VNG has developed four broad strategies for implementing the EPA. These strategies are consolidating, calculating, distinguishing and innovative, the different strategies are divided by two different focusses, adaption versus change and internal versus external. The internal/external divide is an important one for this study as it implies that municipalities with an external focus are more willing to add NPG elements in the implementation of the EPA. As the municipalities are not expected to follow the VNG strategies to the letter it is important to discern the elements of each strategies for the analysis. The VNG has introduced several elements that each different strategy entails 1. These will help rank the used strategies in the analysis as the different elements can be linked to a certain strategy.

The consolidating strategy:

 The current rules, policies and visions are leading, they are the starting point of

developing towards adhering to the new law.

 Start internally by assessing what changes are needed  The mode of working should be plan based




 The focus is on the internal cooperation between the various departments.  Building up knowledge and capabilities are main concerns

 Juridical questions are the most pressing in this strategy

The calculating strategy:

 The new situation is leading that‟s where you are working towards.  Start internally by assessing what changes are needed.

 Impact-analysis are started to calculate the costs.  There is a strong focus on efficiency and effectiveness.

 The focus is on the internal cooperation between the various departments.

The distinguishing strategy:

 Start outside by making connections to participating citizens in different areas of the


 Your work mode should be area based.  Building up knowledge by employing pilots.  The focus should be area specific.

 External relations are the main concern.

The innovative strategy:

 Start outside and be open for ideas within you society.  The new situation in which the EPA is adapted is leading.  A tight process-based mode of working is required.

 Organize a dialogue between the municipality and society.

 The outcome of the dialogue should be leading in your choices when implementing

the EPA.

 External relations are the main concern.




processes. Not having many available make running a successful project hard (Irvin & Stansbury 2004; Tuurnas 2015). The concept is somewhat hard to measure however as resources can be vary from monetary to informational resources. For this research project I

will use a broad sense of resources. Monetary resources will be key however. The interview questions will in the first place focus on those. Examples of these are is the implementation budget expected to be sufficient (if there already is one), what do you expect the costs of implementation will be (high, reasonable etc.). Besides the implementation costs also the availability of resources to stimulated participation can be asked for. For example does the municipality have financial resources to stimulate participation in certain plans, is it budgeting for this. Are there resources available for co-financing (as a particular arrangement).

Next to monetary costs also technological resources are important Meijer already stressed that digital resources can bolster citizen participation (Meijer 2012). In conjuncture the EPA envisions a very user friendly system but can the municipality operate this. Can it provide for it themselves or is there a need to work together with others here.

Finally there is knowledge resources can the given municipality for example draw in a reasonable degree of external knowledge?

Concept Dimensions Indicators

Working Budget EPA

Monetary Expected costs for implementation Resources Positive Municipal Budget

Budgets for participation (experience)


Well-working ICT System

Technological Skilled ICT personnel In house

Resources Modern ICT System

The need to cooperate in this area

Knowledge Are there resources to draw in external expertise Resources Is there external expertise available





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