Land use in the Netherlands, 2015

The Netherlands is a green country, with more than four fifths of its surface area used for recreation, agriculture, woodland and nature. However, land use varies greatly from province to province.

Mainly green land use in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is still a green country, with more than four fifths of its surface area used for recreation, agriculture, woodlands and nature. Less than 15% of the country is red space (infrastructure, residential areas, building sites and other built-up areas). The land use map shows clear clusters of urban land use functions in the west of the Netherlands. There is considerably less urban development in the east, and even less in the north of the country. A striking detail is the string of urban areas from Bergen op Zoom to Nijmegen, along the transition area between the river region and the higher sandy areas in the south. In the center of the country the Veluwe stands out with its concentration of recreation, woodland and nature. The agricultural sector is the main land user in the Netherlands, with two thirds of the country's surface area being used for agriculture in 2015.

Considerable differences between provinces

Land use shows considerable variation between provinces. The western provinces are relatively densely built-up, while the provinces in the north are more characterized by spaciousness. The eastern and southern provinces contain a mix of urban and rural areas. In the provinces of the Randstad - Noord-Holland, Zuid-Holland and Utrecht - there is a clear focus on living, working and recreation. The provinces Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe are characterized by a high proportion of agriculture, but also Zeeland and Overijssel consist of more than 70% agricultural land. There are many natural areas in Friesland and Noord-Holland. This is mainly due to the presence of the Wadden Islands.

Roughly one seventh of the Netherlands is built on

Built-up terrain occupies up one seventh of the surface area of the Netherlands. Land use for housing is less than 7% and is mainly concentrated in the Randstad. This also applies to the building sites (1%) and other built-up areas (roughly 4%). These different types of land use are usually interconnected or at least in close proximity. Large ports such as the Maasvlakte, Moerdijk and Eemshaven are an exception to this. Other notable areas of industrial activity are the blast furnaces in Velsen and DSM in Geleen.


Technical explanation

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Reference of this webpage

CBS, PBL, RIVM, WUR (2024). Land use in the Netherlands, 2015 (indicator 0061, version 11,

) Statistics Netherlands (CBS), The Hague; PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Hague; RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven; and Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen.