At the International Planning History Conference at Delft, Wil Zonneveld and I heared Andrew Sorensen on historical institutionalise and published papers in his special issue of Planning Perspectives on the matter, the one by Zonneveld (2018) being on the Conference of Spatial Planning in North-Western Europe (CRONWE). It expanded on Dühr and Zonneveld (2012) writing on the imagery of the North West Europe metropolis. But national policy makers are wedded to thinking of nation-states as being bordered.

One-time Dutch national planning director Jasper Vink had an abiding interest in North West Europe, identifying Dutch ports as continental gateways and also an emergent mega-structure, the Rhine-Ruhr Area, the Randstad Holland and the urban agglomerations in Belgium and the North of France. (Vink 1966, 1219) Upon retiring, he presided over CRONWE. His predecessor Frits Bakker Schutt’s idea – enjoying a groundswell of support – had been to annex German territory – perhaps including Cologne – by way of war reparation. But Germany had seemed more important as a future trading partner.

There were more reasons, like German coal. Prodded by the US, the French held their noses and acceded to integrating Western European coal and steel production. The development of a transnational industrial basin also seemed to require coordinated planning. But the Dutch planners’ idea for planning at the European failed to resonate, even with the Dutch government let alone other signatories of the Treaty of Rome. To sustain their lobbying, CRONWE was set up with its seat at Liège in Wallonia. Participants were national planning agencies and their counterpart in the Land North Rhine Westphalia.

Zonneveld describes its development and eventual demise. He pays attention – his forte – to the role of images in conceptualising planning challenges. In so doing, CRONWE, drew on István Kormoss from the College of Europe. By that time, Jean Gottman had coined the term megalopolis for the urban development from Boston to Washington. The Dutch were keen on a Northwest European equivalent making the need for, not only international, but also national planning more evident. So the first Dutch national planning memorandum features a map of population distribution in Europe. When making the case again for European planning, the argument would re-emerge. (Witsen 1991). Soon, I would turn my gaze on Dutch planners and their colleagues from other member states preparing the European Spatial Development Perspective.

But member states insisted once more to retain control, and this continues to this day. Meanwhile, there are networks galore, like CRONWE has been, with METREX (, the Delta Metropolis with its Dutch base ( and the STRING Network stretching from Hamburg to Oslo (, all presented at last year’s European Week of Regions and Cities ( Are networks bypassing ever so reluctant member states?


Dühr, S., Zonneveld, W. (2012) ‘Images of Europe, images for Europe’, in: W. Zonneveld, J. De Vries, L. Janssen-Jansen (eds) European Territorial Governance, IOS Press, Amsterdam, 281-316.

Vink, J. (1966) ‘Niederlande’, Akademie für Raumforschung und Landesplanung, Handwörterbuch der Raumforschung und Raumordnung, Gebrüder Jänecke Verlag, Hannover, 1203-1219.

Witsen, J. (1991) ‘Five decades – Five director: The National Phyiscal Planning Agency 1941-1991 – A personal view’, in: A. Faludi (ed) Fifty Years of Dutch National Physical Planning, Built Environme 17(1), 61-68.

Zonneveld, W. (2018) CRONWE: first attempts to institutionalize European spatial planning, Planning Perspectives, 33:4, 523-542.

Note: with thanks to Wil Zonneveld

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