The Netherlands again needs a Minister of Space. Many political parties go into elections with that intention and in the professional world the call for such a minister has never really died down. He or she should work with a plan, and that plan better be integral. But how do you do that, make an “integral plan”? To the letter of the dictionary, “integral” is synonymous with “comprehensive”, but no one wants a plan for everything. There are always choices behind it: what is in it and what is not. Even the limitation of a plan to the spatial domain is such a choice – although a faltering spatial development can sometimes be attributed to non-spatial causes.

“Integrality in the spatial plan” is the working title of the PhD research that I recently started with Wil Zonneveld and Dominic Stead. How is the concept of integrality interpreted, how does it come about? Is it as worthy of pursuit as is suspected? After all, social reality does not wait for an integral plan; transitions have their own speeds and many area values seem to come into the picture only when strategic decisions at higher scale levels have already been taken.

In the 30 years that I have been active in spatial planning, of which the last 20 years self-employed, I have experienced how the policy field became discredited. Coincidental or not, planning theoretical research has also been on the back burner in recent decades. However, if we resume spatial planning as we were used to in the twentieth century, we will make the same mistakes. Spatial planning is desperately needed in this period of growth and transition, but it should be based on the demands of the 21st century. With my research as an external PhD candidate, I hope to contribute to the shaping of a contemporary way of planning.

Peter Paul Witsen

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