History

Military airbase 'Valkenburg' has a rich history. Its location (Fig. 13.1) close to The Hague (Den Haag), where the Dutch Government resides, is of strategic importance. During the Second World War, the capture of the airbase was the first priority of German parachute troops in May 1940. After the war the airbase was returned to the Royal Navy to accommodate their aeroplanes and associated operations. The size of these operations has been steadily reduced over the last half century as a result of changes in the mission and tasks of the Navy. The Navy's aircraft carrier was sold and the helicopters to support frigates in their anti-submarine operations were moved to Den Helder, the harbour hosting the Navy's fleet. Only a few functions remained for the airbase 'Valkenburg':

• NATO airport and home base for thirteen long-distance four propeller Lockheed Orion aeroplanes of the Royal Navy;

Figure 13.1 Location of military airbase 'Valkenburg'

• Airport for governmental flights, performed by the Royal Air Force;

• Airport for sport flights.

In total, this constitutes less than 10000 flight movements yearly. This low occupancy of the airbase, although convenient to its users and attractive to the surrounding villages, makes it relatively costly. The poor economics provided a plausible argument to Leiden, the nearest city in the environment, in its political lobby to get the destination of the airbase changed to a residential area. After decades of political debate, Leiden's lobby culminated in the acceptance, on November 28, 2001, by the Dutch Parliament of the fifth memorandum urban planning ('Vijfde Nota over de Ruimtelijke Ordening', PKB deel 3), which includes moving the Navy's aeroplanes to Den Helder and allowing a residential development on 'Valkenburg' by the year 2010. The fate of the airbase seemed to be inescapable: its days were counted.

Mayor Van der Reijden of the village 'Valkenburg' (having only 3760 inhabitants) then took the remarkable initiative to ask our research group to support him in the crusade of his municipality against the closure of the airbase. Remarkable, because he accepted the condition that the group would be authorised to publish and present to the press any conclusions from their research, whatever these might be. On January 31, 2002, we presented our first preliminary observations:

• Some crucial stakeholders, including the municipalities of the surround-

ing villages, are excluded from the decision process;

• The discussions tend to be conducted within a too limited perspective, namely that Leiden's housing demand can only be resolved by a large-scale urban development;

• The security aspect is not taken into account in any report, as if the events of September 11, 2001, had never happened;

• The location 'Grote Polder' at the east side of Leiden is a priori excluded as a building location for Leiden without any argumentation that makes sense to an independent outsider.

On February 2, 2002, the wedding of crown prince Willem-Alexander and Máxima took place in Amsterdam. The fact that more than fifty VIP flights of guests took place via 'Valkenburg' received extensive attention on television, radio and in the press. The political debate in the media then really took off. Members of parliament raised questions. Petitions with 5 760 signatures of inhabitants of surrounding villages were offered to the relevant authorities. On April 16, 2002, the government stumbled over the issue Sebrenica and resigned. On April 17, 2002, parliament decided to leave the fifth memorandum urban planning to the next government. On May 6, 2002, the upcoming political leader Pim Fortuyn was murdered. His party achieved a landslide victory in the elections, but its participation in government lasts only 86 days: on October 10, 2002, the prime minister handed in the resignation of his government to the queen because of too much internal quarrelling in the party of Fortuyn, where his leadership was badly missed. At the moment of writing the future of the airbase 'Valkenburg' is still in the dark.

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