467 municipalities in 2005

Last year, 27 Dutch municipalities were abolished and merged into eleven new ones. As a result, the total number of municipalities in the Netherlands was reduced by sixteen and amounts to 467 on 1 January 2005. Bar one, they were all situated in the province of Gelderland. The last time a similar large-scale operation took place was in 2001 in the province of Overijssel when eighteen municipalities were abolished.

New municipalities in Gelderland and Overijssel, 2005

New municipalities in Gelderland and Overijssel, 2005

The Netherlands and its territory

The municipal boundaries in the Netherlands are subject to permanent change. In 1965 the Netherlands numbered 966 municipalities. From then on almost every year municipal mergers were effected, new municipalities were formed, old ones abolished. The result is that in 2005 only 467 municipalities remain.

The background behind most municipal redivisions is increase in scale but changes in the natural environment, for instance, reclamation of land from lakes, may also play a part. In 1986 a twelfth province (Flevoland) was reclaimed from the former Zuiderzee and added to the Dutch territory. In 1986 Flevoland numbered only one municipality, currently there are six.

Large-scale redivisions

In the past forty years many large-scale redivisions were effectuated. Extensive parts of provinces or even entire provinces were rearranged.

The process started in the province of Zeeland in the 1960s and continued in the 1970s in Zeeland and in the province of North Holland. Subsequently, in the 1980s, the provinces of Limburg, Friesland, South Holland, Utrecht, Groningen and again North Holland followed suit. In the 1990s large-scale redivisions were implemented in the provinces of North Brabant and Drenthe. In 2001 the province of Overijssel was subject to redivisions and in 2005, for the first time, ten municipalities will be abolished in the province of Gelderland in one year.

Large-scale redivisions, 1965-2005

Large-scale redivisions, 1965-2005

New names often refer to regions

As a result of the increase in scale realised in recent years, names of municipalities often refer to nearby rivers, nature reserves or regions, for instance: Dinkelland and Lingewaard in 2003, Westland and Midden-Delfland in 2004 and Oude IJsselstreek, Berkelland and Montferland in 2005.

Duncan Beeckman