Shrink Smart : A Challenge for Polish Cities

Segolene Pruvot

By Segolene Pruvot, on February 20th, 2013

> Read Segolene Pruvot's articles

While the urban population is growing extremely fast in the world, some cities are shrinking dramatically, especially in Europe. It poses a series of problems in terms of liveability, sustainability and rehabilitation. Here the URBACT National Dissemination Point in Poland presents the case of two Polish cities – Bytom and Sosnowiec – that have explored solutions to such a challenge in the framework of Shrink Smart, a 3-year scientific project on the management of shrinking cities developed within the European Union 7th Framework Program.

URBACT is also very active on this thematic. Shrinking Cities was the theme of one of the 6 URBACT workstreams for the preparation of the URBACT Annual Conference 2012. The workstream gathered experts, who built on URBACT projects results, in particular those of the project SURE ( Socio-economic methods of Urban REgeneration in deprived areas), to create new knowledge on the topic.

Bytom and Sosnowiec are shrinking

Bytom and Sosnowiec are within the cities of over 100 000 inhabitants with the highest scale of social and economic problems in the Europe according to the report Urban Shrinkage in Bytom and Sosnowiec of the research project Shrink Smart.
These two cities are situated in the conurbation of Katowice. Both were negatively impacted by the transformations of the last two decades, including reforms of the mining industry .
According to the report, the shrinkage of these two Polish cities but also of many cities in Central and Eastern Europe was the effect of political transformation: return to the free-market mechanisms, privatization, unemployment, decline of social housing. It was also worsened due to a lower birth rate in the ninetees.

Unemployment as the biggest problem

Bytom is one of the cities which was most hit by the industry reforms says the spokesperson of Bytom City Hall. He adds that out of 2 smelting companies and 7 mines only one company has survived. Today local authorities promote the positive picture of the city and support entrepreneurship, but the economic situation is still not at its best.Bytom-Karb_-_Demolition_09

‘Bytom is undoubtedly in the group of European cities with the biggest problems’ says Robert Krzysztofik, project manager of the Shrink Smart project at the Silesian University. On top of severe unemployment, Bytom is also struggling with the problems of post-mining damages, which cause earthquakes, hydrological problems and damages in buildings.

How to get out of the deadlock?

According to R. Krzysztofik, the authorities of Bytom and Sosnowiec hope to halt population shrinkage and for Sosnowiec there may be a happy end. During the last 2 years, thanks to the local policies and new investments, population loss is decreasing. An important role was also played by the right allocation of European Union grants and by the opportunities offered by the Katowice Special Economic Zone. Unfortunately Bytom is out of that zone and is thus partly deprived of measures, which help stabilize the inhabitants runoff.
The Shrink Smart report also points at the solutions to get over the crisis: attracting investors, fighting against the negative processes through the renewal of deprived post-mining areas and buildings, creating friendly city centers as well as green areas and sport facilities.

On the 1st of March, shrinking cities will be the main theme of the Senate (High chamber of the National Parliament) debate in Poland. The problem is also high in the agenda of various European institutions. Solutions are on the go!

We invite you to read the Shrink Smart findings and those of the URBACT Workstream on Shrinking Cities, available in the article by Hans Schlappa Shrinking Cities : Challenges for Policy and Practice published in the 2012 URBACT Tribune .

Anna Nadolna, Association of Polish Cities,
URBACT National Dissemination Point in Poland

One Response to “Shrink Smart : A Challenge for Polish Cities”

  1. Sasza says:

    I dont know Silesia, but last year I visited Łodz, and and can say that this city has a chance for great futere:) I spent a few days in Reymont Hotel and it was very good place, with grat service and nice rooms.

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