Traffic and transport contribute to many environmental problems. The programme of the former RPB (now the PBL - Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency) mapped the current and future environmental pressure factors of traffic and transport within the framework of MNP, but also to support policy making by its principal (Netherlands Ministry of Spatial Planning, Housing and the Environment, Directorate General for Environmental Protection).
The Netherlands Institute for Spatial Research was established by Royal Decree and had the following tasks:
- to explore and highlight spatially relevant social trends
- to forecast the demand for and use of the space available in the Netherlands
- to monitor social and spatial trends
- to analyse government policies that have a spatial dimension
- to develop variations on spatial policies and alternative scenarios
- to publish its findings in research and advisory reports.
The main aim was to contribute to the public debate on spatial development. RPB provided independent information on present and future spatial development, based on original and innovative research that meets academic standards. It also generated new insights for national spatial development. Moreover, the Institute for Spatial Research aimed to be a window to future spatial development.
In September 2008, the RPB merged with the Milieu en Natuur Planbureau (MNP) to become the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL - Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving).
The Institute for Spatial Research was a consultant, commentator and critical observer, giving advice on request and on its own initiative. It did this for various organisations: not only for central government and Parliament, but also for other government authorities. In the end, the institute worked for everyone who is interested in the spatial development of the Netherlands and it maintained an independent position in relation to all these parties.
The Institute for Spatial Research worked to a study programme. This was adopted every two years, but it was flexible and could be refined during the implementation period.
A project group was created for each item in the study programme. Their aim was to ensure that project groups charged with writing the report contain members from different disciplines. The Institute employed professionals from a wide range of disciplines, including economists, public administrators, social scientists, urban designers, landscape architects and planners. This clustering of disciplines was one of the institute's key strengths. As well as being interdisciplinary, the research projects were intersectoral, drawing on theories and hypotheses from all policy sectors with a spatial dimension.
The Institute's working method integrated research and design - a combination that distinguishes the Institute from other policy assessment offices. The core principle was that, right from the start, researchers and designers focus on one topic at a time, the interaction between them moving the project forward, step by step.