Planning, Law, and Property Rights

Fifth International Conference
Faculty of Law • University of Alberta
May 25–28, 2011

In our paper we reflect on the relationship between planning and law based upon the discussions about areas that are protected under the nature conservation act. The nature conservation act provides a legislative framework for both the designation of protected sites as well as for decision-making about social and economical activities that might have negative effects on the conservation objectives. The formal boundaries of the protected area can have legal and economical consequences for land use activities in and around the protected site and are therefore subject of much debate. 

Using Niklas Luhmann’s social systems theory we will analyse the relations and interactions between the planning, legal, and political systems. Each system constructs the world around it in its own way, based upon the application of unique basic distinctions and conceptual frames. The distinction made by one systems can make  a differences for other systems as they might see their environment changing. Together these systems form  a web of linked, but operationally closed systems. In this perspective the delineation of the boundaries of a protected site within a specific system (e.g. law), effects other systems (e.g. planning). Case studies in the Netherlands indicate that the delineation of the boundaries of protected sites within the legal and administrative system complicated the political discussion about the governance of these sites and limited the possibilities for planning to find solutions for existing conflicts. These results help to shed a fresh light upon the ongoing debates about the governance of protected sites and contribute to the development of a framework for the analysis of the relationships between planning and law in the field of natural resource governance.