Settlement Area 



Flanders Department of Environment and Spatial Development 


The concept of ‘settlement area’ is defined in the White Paper on the Spatial Policy Plan as that part of the space in which the biophysical function is not the most important. In other words, the space that is taken up by human activity (i.e. the space we use for housing, industrial and commercial purposes, transport infrastructure and recreational purposes). Parks and gardens, ecoducts across infrastructures and some shoulders and banks along (road) infrastructures are also part of the settlement area. 


The concept of ‘settlement area’ is based on the definition that the European Commission applies, namely: “the area of land used for housing, industrial and commercial purposes, healthcare, education, nursing infrastructure, roads and rail networks, recreation (parks and sports grounds), etc. In land-use planning, it usually corresponds to all land uses beyond agriculture, semi-natural areas, forestry, and water bodies.” (European Commission, 2012). 


In order to determine and map the settlement area in Flanders, the land-use database of VITO was used. A method was developed which, in compliance with the European definition of ‘settlement area’, maps the settlement area at a resolution of 10mx10m. 


Based on the above definition, an area-wide binary grid map (10mx10m grid) was developed for Flanders, based on the land-use database (status in 2013) which shows the settlement area. This includes all plots of land with buildings (for residential use as well as for industrial and commercial use and for services), all land associated with road infrastructure and all land used mainly for recreation. The non-built and unsealed parts of larger recreational domains are not considered part of the settlement area. All categories from the land-use database that imply a sealing of the land are also considered as settlement area (for example, all buildings with an agricultural function: stables, greenhouses, etc.). As far as military domains and ports are concerned, only limited areas are included. The built-up area within the military domains is included, but the exercise areas are not, because these often perform a (semi)natural function. According to the European definition, bodies of water are no part of the settlement area. 


The map of the settlement area is updated together with the land-use map. The latest available settlement area map reflects the 2016 situation. 



Remarks on quality 

The quality of the calculation depends on the quality and methodology of the land-use database. The land-use database has been developed at medium spatial resolution (10m x 10m) for Flanders and Brussels, based on the best available GIS layers. 



Department of Environment and Spatial Development (2019): Land use and Settlement area in Flanders - situation 2016