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Entanglement of Interests and Motives: Assumptions behind the NIMBY-theory on Facility Siting


  • Maarten Wolsink

    (Department of Environmental Science, University of Amsterdam, Nieuwe Prinsengracht 130, 1018 VZ Amsterdam, the Netherlands)


In Dutch policy documents resistance to planned trajectories and sites for facilities is accounted for in terms of the NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) attitudes held by local residents. Therefore, as a desperate effort to crush the opposition against some major projects, new physical planning legislation is proposed. A new instrument is introduced for the central authorities which drastically limits the influence of the local authorities and the public on the siting process. Since the basic idea behind it is the 'theory' of people defending their own backyard without recognising the needs of society as a whole, it is called the NIMBY instrument. If certain conditions concerning the nature of attitudes held by local residents are fulfilled, siting decisions can be theoretically described and classified as social dilemmas. Six implicit assumptions which can be distinguished in the backyard theory are examined, leading to the conclusion that the theory does not hold for most people. Interests of local residents are entangled with their behavioural motives. The new Dutch NIMBY policy will change priorities and power structures in the process of facility siting. Probably the new policy will prove to be counterproductive. The public are offended when they are treated as selfish and irrational and opposition will probably be stimulated by the use of the NIMBY instrument.

Suggested Citation

  • Maarten Wolsink, 1994. "Entanglement of Interests and Motives: Assumptions behind the NIMBY-theory on Facility Siting," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 31(6), pages 851-866, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:urbstu:v:31:y:1994:i:6:p:851-866

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