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Case Study: Impact assessment of a wind energy project near a World Heritage property in the Netherlands

Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout

In 2013, the national government and the provinces of the Netherlands agreed on allocating the onshore wind power production per province to jointly reach the national target of 6,000 MW.

The target for the province of Zuid-Holland (South Holland) has been set at 735.5 MW. A respective wind energy policy was laid out in the Spatial Planning Vision and Mobility Vision (VRM). The VRM consists of four parts:

  1. the Spatial Planning Vision;
  2. the Spatial Planning Regulation;
  3. the Spatial Programme; and
  4. the Mobility Programme.

The relevant wind energy policy identifies a number of potential locations for the provincial wind energy generation. The effects of actual wind turbines at these locations, however, need to be assessed and detailed at project level. One of these locations lies west of the Kinderdijk Millnetwork. The policy regulations further require a linear arrangement for three or more wind turbines on large transitions from land to water.

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State Party:

World Heritage property:
Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout

(i) (ii) (iv)

Year of inscription:

Brief description:
The outstanding contribution made by the people of the Netherlands to the technology of handling water is admirably demonstrated by the installations in the Kinderdijk-Elshout area. Construction of hydraulic works for the drainage of land for agriculture and settlement began in the Middle Ages and has continued uninterruptedly to the present day. The site illustrates all the typical features associated with this technology – dykes, reservoirs, pumping stations, administrative buildings and a series of beautifully preserved windmills.

See further details at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/818

Impact assessment carried out for this project

The province of South Holland commissioned a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) for the planned location outside the property. It examined the possible effects of three turbines in the setting of the property. Visual aspects played a key role in the assessment.

Type of turbines assessed:

Axis height: approximately 120 m

Rotor diameter: approximately 120 m

Power capacity: approximately 3.5 MW

Summary on the outcome of the impact assessment

The impact assessment made it clear that the proposed development would have negative impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the Millnetwork of Kinderderdijk. The assessment identified a moderate to high impact for two of the three core qualities of the property and concluded that the installations would pose a significant risk to the World Heritage status of Kinderderdijk-Elshout. The province of South Holland, therefore, considered the assessment’s results and, to avoid any potential negative impacts on the property’s OUV, rejected this location.

Important lessons learned from the project

The assessment for the Millnetwork showcased the role and importance of an HIA in the World Heritage context, in particular regarding potential visual impacts on the OUV. The exercise stimulated other parties to reflect on the existent policy frameworks, which regulate the development of sustainable energy sources. It shed new light on the specific requirements for developments near a World Heritage property. These considerations may become relevant in future HIAs concerning other World Heritage properties in the Netherlands.

The HIA is available on the public website of the province of South Holland.