Researching the spatial quality of the Flemish countryside

    Project Details


    Main research question/goal
    This research project investigates the spatial quality of non-agricultural activities taking place in vacant agricultural buildings. These activities are often illegal according to the spatial planning policy. This dynamic will be mapped with both quantitative (in some regions) and qualitative methods. Subsequently we will determine the impact of these activities on the spatial quality of the countryside. The final objective of this research is to provide policy recommendations in order to steer spatial transformations towards more spatial quality.


    Research approach
    We optimise an existing method of inventory (developed in the West Flanders Intermunicipal Association) by linking digital datasets with a thorough verification in the field.  We apply the method and thus collect data systematically for 35 rural municipalities in Flanders: at first in 17 municipalities in the Roeselare-Tielt region and subsequently – in cooperation with the Flemish Land Agency – in an additional 18 rural municipalities spread across Flanders. We study the relationship between the dynamics of re-use of former agricultural buildings and the spatial impact. A perception study underpins the data collection about the aesthetic appreciation of these activities.


    The development of a method to detect spatial transformations and to monitor their impact on spatial quality is an important scientific and societal contribution to the debate on rural development. We expect this research to facilitate policy recommendations to improve the spatial quality of rural areas.

    Effective start/end date1/02/0931/12/14