Man-made Lowlands; A Future for ancient dykes in the Netherlands

Dykes are a defining feature of the Netherlands’ cultural landscape. This brochure offers practical guidelines on how to deal with the cultural and historical value of dykes.

Since 2012, local authorities have been expected to take account of structures with a distinct cultural heritage value, including dykes, when formulating their land use plans. Given that the Netherlands boasts many thousands of kilometres of dykes, how do you decide whether a particular dyke deserves special treatment? How can local authorities and other stakeholders ensure that dykes are treated correctly and appropriately? This publication makes a distinction between two types of dykes; those which still serve as a flood barrier and dyke relics. The latter play a defining role in the Dutch landscape but have lost their water-defence function.

Dykes under threat

Many dykes are centuries old and are characteristic elements in the landscape. The preservation of these dykes is under increasing threat. In the decades ahead, more and more space will be needed for housing, work and recreation in the low-lying parts of the Netherlands. Agriculture too, will continue to increase in scale. This will put pressure on the survival of dyke relics. These threats are compounded by climate change, which will not only bring about rises in sea level but also lengthy dry periods. Peat dykes and embankments will weaken as a result. As we face all these developments, now is the right time for local authorities to give dykes of historical value a place in their heritage policy documents and on their cultural history maps.

This publication is also available in Dutch.

Who is this publication for?

This booklet is intended for local authority policy makers and everyone whose work involves dealing with dykes.

Publishing details

Authors: The Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency with a contribution by Marije Schaafsma-Tilstra (Royal Haskoning DHV)
© The Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency, August 2013