Building homes in the ‘Bollenstreek’ horticulture region is viable in terms of economic welfare if existing horticulture is gradually relocated to other places in the Netherlands. House-building in the ‘Westland’ horticulture region could be viable only if it involved building additional houses. These are the findings of a cost-benefit analysis of a future where a quarter of these current ‘greenports’ are used for housing in 2040. The study was carried out in collaboration with LEI and Atlas voor gemeenten.

Both horticulture and housing benefit from close proximity. Horticultural businesses benefit from being close together because of the presence of amenities, suppliers and knowledge, known as the ‘cluster effects’. Where large numbers of homes are concentrated in agglomerations there are benefits for businesses and consumers: there is a greater choice of (a) workers and customers and (b) amenities, which is reflected in wages and house prices. Given that the greenports are located near the major population centres of the ‘Randstad’ western conurbation, the agglomeration effects of building homes on these sites are likely to be substantial.

The study analysed whether these agglomeration benefits outweigh the loss of cluster effects and the cost of relocating horticulture. It also included effects on open spaces and nature in terms of their influence on house prices.

Relocation from the Bollenstreek would cost much less than from the Westland region because the Westland region relocation contains many glasshouses and much infrastructure that would have to be rebuilt elsewhere. The housing benefits of relocation per hectare and per dwelling would moreover be greater in the Bollenstreek, so the costs and benefits are more favourable in the Bollenstreek than the Westland region. Also, pasture land could be used to some extent instead of horticultural land in the Bollenstreek.