Governments serve the public interest by regulating land use in favour of democratically determined objectives. While people can become involved in allocation processes through pre-structured participation, uninvited entry into planning processes may occur too. This article studies the latter, seeking to highlight the mechanisms of interaction between local governments and local opposition groups (LOGs) when conflict occurs about housing projects and industrial sites. We argue that because formal decisional power has a predefined territory, the effectiveness of self-organized LOGs is highly influenced by the decisional configuration. We analyse two cases of contestation in recent Dutch planning practice and attempt to link the spatiality of power with the concepts of ‘spaces of engagement’ and a ‘political opportunity structure’. In the case of strong municipal autonomy, administrative borders appear to be important for local opposition strategies and for the way in which they shape urban and regional geography.