Land Take and Industrial Added Value: a Compass for the USEAct Project


By URBACT, on November 18th, 2013

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To reduce land take and to develop the re-use of urban areas is an aim that can be achieved with adequate integration of many tools, both direct and indirect, at different levels. The frameworks of national legislation and regional planning can play important roles, giving guidelines and implementation regulations for the cities.

Creating planning tools to define urban, suburban and rural areas – examples from South Europe

Currently, in South Europe, various countries, among others Spain and Italy, are particularly active in “recovering” land lost in the past. Just to mention a recent example at national level, a draft law from the Italian Environment Ministry (Summer 2013) addressed proposing quantitative limits to use of agricultural land for the councils, anticipating rewards and incentives for municipalities that respect the constraints, foreseeing also the obligation of the councils to identify the priority areas for urban re-use. At regional level, defining clearly the “urban areas” and the “rural areas” (proposing for the future strict limits or even a ban on construction) is also a model that has in recent years been gaining ground. As an example, the territorial plan of Catalonia can be cited, with the “three” area categories (SU, Surb, SNurb). In Italy, the Region of Tuscany is currently working on a framework plan aimed to prevent residential investment in areas defined as “non-urban”, a fact that is generating strong tension between councils and builders associations.

Balancing the limiting approach to make space for productive settlements

The idea of marking a line around the urbanised territory and establishing what can and cannot be done before and beyond the line is important, and requires sound town planning analysis to create reasonable, certain and shared criteria for the identification of these areas. But within this highly “limiting” approach to planning it would be important to also have flexible instruments to “select” and “direct” the constraints, keeping in mind the various categories of investment. If residential and retail space investment, which has characterised much urban expansion in the last two decades, must undoubtedly find “limiting” instruments, it must not be forgotten that other developments (primarily qualified “productive” settlements located near main infrastructures) remain essentially to keep companies, jobs and added value to the territories. In short it can be stated that the right way is to follow the “reduction” of the “rent-seeking” drivers from urban transformation in favour of “production-oriented” ones. But the need to favour these “productive factors”, speculatively, means it is necessary to emphasise them also within the “urban growth management” debate. It is thus maintained that at national legislative level, as well as at the level of the regional plans or individual municipalities, strategies and approaches aimed at reducing land take should be capable of “recognising” the different long-term impacts and socio-economic values generated by different settlement types.

Faced with the decline of European industry, the target declared by the European Commission of a “reindustrialisation” of Europe that starts, as stated by vice-president Tajani, from the local level, also needs to balance policies of the reduction of land take with the creation of added value of an industrial nature through new productive investment, always from the perspective of the highest protection of qualified environmental resources. So far, the perspective with which the urban plan works to create space for companies and for work must remain fundamental also in the URBACT framework. Having started the second stage of the USEACT project with the thematic seminar on  “Planning tools and planning governance for Urban Growth Management and reusing urban areas” at Viladecans, with interest in developing planning tools to reactivate the production activities in a dimension of a metropolitan area is the greatest hope in this direction.

003e6d4By Vittorio Torbianelli

USEAct Lead Expert

One Response to “Land Take and Industrial Added Value: a Compass for the USEAct Project”

  1. The italian draft law presents in summer 2013 now is changing, because the law was strongly opposed, quite rightly, by environmental groups because it contained the principle: “who pays can consume agricultural land and building even more”

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