The governance dilemma in the Flanders coastal region between integrated water managers and spatial planners: Karel Van den Berghe and Renaat De Sutter
The coastal area in Flanders is an approximately 10-20 km-wide reclaimed lowland, at an elevation that varies from 2.5 to 5.5 m LAT.1 The 65 km of shoreline is bordered by an almost continuous coastal dune belt and crossed by a small river, the Yser, which is presently canalized and flows into the North Sea at the town of Newport (Baeteman, Scott, & Van Strydonck, 2002; Ervynck et al., 1999). The plain is subdivided into three parts: low-lying polder areas, dunes and shore, with the low-lying polder areas forming the major part of the coastal plain (Lebbe, Van Meir, & Viaene, 2010). The current coastal plain can be identified as a flat, open polder area consisting mainly of intensive agricultural landscapes and widespread small villages (Antrop, 2007). Only along its coast on a stretch of land of approximately 0.5-2 km wide, situated mostly on the belt of coastal dunes and dikes, is there a high densification of tourism, mainly consisting of high and dense apartment buildings and villas (Figure 1) (Antrop et al., 2002; Koks, de Moel, & Bouwer, 2012). In total along the coastline, only 40% is naturally protected by the dunes. Elsewhere, additional soft or hard artificial defences are needed (Lebbe et al., 2010). Without these dikes and dunes along the coastline, most parts of the coastal area would float every day due to its low-lying profile (EEA, 2006).