The most significant policy issue during 2019 in the Netherlands was related to zoning plans, which have always been highly prescriptive and determine the extent to which each sector may or may not do business in a certain area. This practice has been called into question in recent years, as consultation with the European Court of Justice found that the retail trade falls under the so-called Services Directive, which stands for the principle of ‘freedom of establishment’.
Following this assertion a number of property owners and retailers have argued in court that zoning plans should not restrict retailers from opening regular stores in retail warehouse locations. In the course of 2019, various court cases showed that zoning plans can still be used very strictly, but that the grounds given with respect to why retailers are not allowed to settle everywhere must be substantiated much more emphatically. As such, the extent of this threat has lessened substantially.