The spatial and transport planning have geographical, economic and environmental constraints and are closely linked to the social and political conditions of each country as well as are well under the influence of globalization forces. This makes it all a highly complex issue and requires a better understanding of the background and products of policies and the interaction of a number of key determinant factors in policy-making and implementation. Within this large picture, the long-term review of different cases may provide useful discussions for the guidance and reinforcement of policy assessment. Therefore, the primary aim of this study is to critically analyze the planning in the Netherlands through examining the issues of governing structure, spatial policy-making, and transport re-structuring. The leading characteristic of the Netherlands is the scarcity of usable land that has raised high and early awareness on spatial development issues and its connections with natural and environmental protection. The functioning of planning systems, and policy aims and measures within the planning documents since the end of the 1950s, have been reviewed and the key planning concepts have been examined by bringing in general and current discussions on the issues. The success and failure in past policy-making and implementations have been highlighted. The policies of the current spatial and transport planning documents have been evaluated by their main policy titles such as compact city, network of cities and sustainable mobility. There is a general consensus that the Netherlands has been developed into a well planned and organized society and has designed leading policies such as the ABC firm location policy. However, a number of issues such as increasing vehicle kilometres, urban decline and sprawl, and some gaps in policy making remain to be the critical planning challenges. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.