The Rutger van der Peet now keeps 150 horses. But the county wants him to downsize and return to about 40 animals, so that the nature reserves where he and his company are located can be linked together. “Then I must stop.”
Van der Peet owns a horse pension, and he stables horses for their owners. His company is located outside Blomendale, between two nature reserves. His clients come mainly from Bloemendeel, Heemstede and Haarlem. Now the province of North Holland has other plans for the company and the land of van der Beyet and his neighbours.
Added 50,000 nature football fields
There should be more nature in Holland, preferably connected to each other. If Van der Peet shrunk and its soil became damp straw meadows, two nature reserves could be linked together. And this is exactly what the Dutch Nature Network is striving for, which is the responsibility of the provinces.
The goal is to have 734,000 hectares of nature reserve on land by 2027, which are interconnected. At the beginning of last year, there were just under 700,000 hectares, so there is still a need to add 35,000 hectares, which is the equivalent of more than 50,000 football fields.
There is no revenue model
“They want to create wet hay fields here, which means the soil gets wet,” van der Beet says. “Then you can’t keep horses on it anymore.” Horses with wet feet are prone to diseases of the feet and legs.
The county wants to give Van der Peet a subsidy so he can keep fewer horses and manage the area as a nature reserve. But according to van der Peet, this is not a solution. “If the government goes ahead with plans, we’ll have to stop. If I follow plans, I’ll be back at about 40 horses. But in the end I can’t make a business model with that, so they’re bleeding to death. My customers, who come here to enjoy nature, have to look for Another place, but there is no other place.”
My back is against the wall
In the province of North Holland, they are already on their way to linking nature reserves, but it is precisely the acquisition of the last pieces of nature that is the most difficult. The green connection extends directly across agricultural areas with some regularity.
Van der Beyet feels his back against the wall. “I want to talk to them about biodiversity and I also work on it a lot myself, but not in the Nature Network, because my work processes are not possible anymore.”
For Van der Peet, this causes a lot of tension and uncertainty, while, according to him, good agreements were made a few years ago with nature organizations. He is surprised that these agreements give way to coercion. He says the survival of the old family business is under threat.
“If you’ve had company in the family for 300 to 400 years, you also want to do something for it. You feel unwanted.” Bloemendale municipality is also behind it, but the county is not.
North Holland Province responsible representative, Esther Rommel, says she wants to achieve nature’s goals with farmers as much as possible. There is also a large budget available to achieve nature’s goals and perhaps compensate farmers “We’re talking about 600 million euros, but it’s worth it. Especially because you can make this connection (between nature reserves, editor). This increases biodiversity.”
“If I said I could stay where I was, then I would become a hobby farmer,” van der Beet says. “They say they make up completely, but I don’t believe it. They are looking for a cheap gardener and you can start managing it on their terms.”
“Just like in Groningen”
He also knows examples of expropriated farmers in other provinces. Moving to an area with more space is also not an option because his clients, the horse owners of the guest house, all come from the area.
“You are in the hands of the government,” he says. “It’s just like Groningen.” “I’m 9-10 kilometers from Schiphol and Tata Steel. I was told that Tata Steel emits 3,000 times more. So yes, what are we contributing?”
View the full report here