The Netherlands is still an agricultural country, if land use is taken into account. More than half of the Netherlands is occupied by farmland, but the area covered by farmland is gradually being reduced as built-up areas are growing and Dutch population expanding.
Between 2006 and 2008, the total built-up area has grown by nearly 7 thousand hectares (ha), i.e. an area the size of the city of Maastricht, according to Statistics Netherlands.
Altogether, 55 percent of the Netherlands is used for agricultural and horticultural purposes, followed by woodland and natural terrain with 12 percent. Although built-up areas are prominent, they cover only 8 percent of the total land area of the Netherlands.
The proportion of built-up area has increased from 8.1 too 8.3 percent between 2006 and 2008. New residential areas (2,300 ha) and new industrial sites (3 thousand ha) together equal an area about the size of Maastricht. The total built-up area has shown sustained growth throughout the years at the expense of farmland. New built-up areas also include infrastructural works. The area used for infrastructural facilities has increased by more than 1,100 ha.
The largest expansion of built-up area was in the province of South Holland with large municipalities like Rotterdam (+ 300 ha) and The Hague (+ 80 ha). The largest area of new housing estates was also realised in South Holland, but large housing estates were also built on the outskirts of big cities like Utrecht (Leidsche Rijn) and alongside motorways, e.g. Ypenburg in The Hague. New industrial sites were also predominantly built in South Holland, for example on the Maasvlakte (more than 200 ha).
The Netherlands has designated open areas for the conservation of characteristic and valuable landscapes. The two vastest National landscapes are the Veluwe and the Green Heart. Building in these areas is allowed, but only to comply with the needs of the local population. In the Green Heart, the proportion of built-up area is on average 6.6 percent below the level elsewhere in the country, but also increasing. In total, 85 ha of residential area and 58 ha of industrial sites were built between 2006 and 2008.