The European Commission has given the green light to a €276 million Dutch scheme to promote the acquisition of land for sustainable nature conservation.

The scheme, under EU State aid rules, replaces an existing initiative supporting land purchase in the Netherlands for conservation, which was approved by the commission in 2011.

The aim of the project is to establish a network of natural areas, while also connecting them to nearby agricultural land holdings.

The creation of nature areas will ensure the conservation and protection of biodiversity and “liveability” in the Netherlands, according to a statement from the EU Commission.

Under the scheme, which will run until the end of December 2027, direct grants will be allocated to “sustainable nature management operators” to allow them to acquire land with the aim of converting it into nature areas.

It will compensate up to 100% of the corresponding reduction in land value, resulting from the conversion into natural areas, based on calculations from an independent report.

Land for nature

According to the government of the Netherlands, the area of agricultural land acquired in the country for conversion to “new nature” has increased gradually since 1990.

Some of the land was acquired by the provincial governments and some has remained in private ownership.

The land is part of the country’s national ecological network.

Between January 1, 2011 and January 1, 2019, more than 19,000ha of agricultural land had been acquired or the designated land use changed without prior acquisition, and almost 39,000ha had been converted to new nature.