Re-using vacant farm buildings for commercial purposes: Two cases from the Netherlands

Across the European Union, farm modernisation results in vacant farm buildings in agricultural areas. This is an issue at the crossroads of rural development and spatial planning. The debate often revolves around the options of either demolishing these buildings or re-using them for residential purposes. There is less emphasis, however, on re-using vacant farm buildings to create new employment opportunities in rural areas. This article analyses two cases in the Netherlands to explore the commercial re-use of vacant farm buildings in relation to rural development. The analysis specifically focuses on governance issues, the contribution of different types of commercial re-use to rural communities, and how re-use helps in retaining or attracting young people. The findings suggest that commercial re-use of vacant farm buildings can attract new entrepreneurs, jobs, and liveliness to rural areas. This is likelier if local government efforts and local entrepreneurship align. The cases also show limitations of commercial re-use in relation to the potential for wider uptake and the risk of enhancing rural gentrification. This raises the question of whether the current planning systems can deal with the upcoming complex processes of rural transformation.

Continue reading