One century ago, the present Flevoland was just a patch of water in the Zuiderzee. Only the former islands of Schokland and Urk, which are now part of the province of Flevoland, have a longer history. The history of Flevoland begins with the words spoken by Dutch Queen Wilhelmina during her speech of September 1913: ‘I consider it time to initiate the enclosure and reclamation of the Zuiderzee. This will result in an improvement to the water management infrastructure of the surrounding provinces, expansion of the habitable land area and a permanent increase in employment.’
The Zuiderzee was then a dangerous inland sea that penetrated right into the heart of the Netherlands. Cornelis Lely’s plan to enclose the Zuiderzee and partially drain it was accepted in 1918. Lely’s objectives for impoldering were manifold: better flood protection, improved water management, faster transport links between the west, north and east of the Netherlands, and more farmland and employment. Construction of the 2.5 kilometre long dike from North-Holland to the Wieringen island was completed in 1924. The 30 kilometre long Afsluitdijk from Wieringen to Friesland was finished in 1932, turning the Zuiderzee into a lake – the IJsselmeer. Five years later, reclamation of the Northeast Polder was initiated. In 1957 Eastern Flevoland fell dry, and in 1968 Southern Flevoland also became land.
Contemporary trends had a major impact on the layout of Flevoland. The Northeast Polder is typified by farmland and by woodland on soil unsuitable for crops, and an urban centre in Emmeloord with a ring of ten satellite villages within cycling distance – cars were not a major factor in those days. By the time Eastern Flevoland fell dry, land use requirements had clearly changed. Farmland was still widely available, but outdoor recreational facilities and demand for residential areas and good road links now also jostled for space. There are now four urban centres in Eastern Flevoland, the provincial capital Lelystad, Dronten, Biddinghuizen and Swifterbant.
In Southern Flevoland the polder is no longer just an area of farmland. Together with greenbelt areas laid out for nature, recreation and agriculture, various urban centres make up the town of Almere, which currently has some 186,000 residents. The south-western corner of Flevoland has been designated as an overspill area for the country’s western metropoles. Zeewolde is located where woods and water meet – a fulcrum of outdoor recreation.
The province of Overijssel governed the Northeast Polder from 1950 to 1955. The creation of the ‘Southern IJsselmeer Polders’ Public Body in 1955 meant the administrative situation for Eastern Flevoland had also been organized. And in 1962 Southern Flevoland was added. The Zuiderzee Works Department was charged with constructing public works relating to water management. The IJsselmeer Polder Development Authority was founded in 1962 with the primary task of preparing the ground for farming, settling and recreation. This body was headed by a local administrator. A Different Management Philosophy The social development of the polders ran so smoothly that their autonomous existence under a provincial executive was a logical next step. Since 1 January 1986, the three polders together officially constitute the twelfth province: Flevoland. The short history of development of the province is reflected in the way the province is now governed. The executive and administrative bodies are relatively small and the management philosophy differs from other provinces. Where possible, the provincial authorities respect the policy freedoms of the individual municipalities. Since Flevoland is made up of just six municipalities and one Regional Water Authority, it all runs very efficiently.