Information for policy makers from European urban regions Are you a planner or politician from an urban regional authority in Europe? Are you an NGO, CSO or resident, interested in the sustainability of developments in your region? Then the PLUREL project might be of interest to you.
Introduction to PLUREL and its results
PLUREL is a large European research-practice cooperation project. The PLUREL project will develop new strategies and planning and forecasting tools for rural-urban regions (more information can be found at www.plurel.eu). The project aims to understand how sustainable relationships can be developed between urban and rural areas in terms of land use. We chose the term rural-urban region to look beyond the immediate areas of intensive urbanization and place equal weight on both urban and rural demands and perspectives.
PLUREL aims to anchor its research in the reality of rural-urban regions in Europe. It involves practitioners from these regions in the research in order to strengthen its practical relevance and enable the adoption of the research results by European urban regions. Therefore stakeholders are given a voice during the development and execution of the research. At the same time the project will make use of the information from stakeholders to benchmark spatial planning and governance strategies for sustainable relationships between urban, peri-urban and rural areas and to develop forecasting tools.
The descriptions and benchmarking of these strategies in relation to main trends as globalization, climate change and demographic development are among the most important results of the PLUREL project. Other important results are stakeholder based participatory scenarios and web based Sustainable Impact Assessment Tools for urban regions (SIAT-RUR). The Sustainability Impact Assessment Tools for Rural-Urban Regions will be tailored to the assessment of local, regional and EU-level policies within the context of rural-urban regions. It will analyse impacts of land use policy options in environmental, social and economic terms.
Research and action programme of PLUREL with the case study regions
The research and action programme is envisaged with the following components:
1. To collect analyse and evaluate relevant (stakeholder and other) strategy documents and plans according to a set of criteria agreed across the PLUREL case study partners.
2. To provide qualitative and quantitative descriptions of the rural-urban regions and their land use developments in relation to globalization, climate change and demography. With a focus on the interaction between the urban, peri-urban and rural areas within the urban region.
3. To conduct in-depth interviews with stakeholders about their strategies to influence these developments.
4. To convene group discussions for the evaluation and European comparison of strategies to manage these developments. Forecasted impacts and scenarios will support the development of recommendations for follow up action.
5. To organise a mid-project conference that involves EU partners and local stakeholders (September 2009). Evocative events will be organized to stimulate public involvement and to enable a creative planning event with local residents, interest groups, and students. An interactive mobile exhibition will showcase the project’s results.
Practical issues prioritized by the urban regions
During the first stakeholder meeting of the project in April 2007 the regions defined the following issues of prime importance for study by PLUREL:
1: Land pressure due to urban development in peri-urban areas
Demands for housing, commercial estates and services in the urban fringes are rising and this results in traffic flows and land pressure. It is a challenge to identify which strategies are deployed in the case study regions that can contribute to more sustainable developments in both the urban and fringe areas.
2: Agricultural land in the urban fringe under pressure
Through globalization and international competition between urban regions the economically less valued, but for other reasons appreciated qualities of farm land are at risk in the case study regions. Spatial planning and governance strategies are studied that help avoid or counter developments leading to the termination (or change like hobby farming) of agricultural land use in peri-urban and more rural parts of rural-urban regions.
3: High value nature in the urban fringe at risk
There is a concern for the preservation of high value nature areas in the vicinity of the urban centres. Different strategies will be described, analysed and compared, put against the regionally specific context.
4: Sustainable integration of tourism and recreation in development of the rural-urban region
Urban expansion versus leisure areas can be considered as competing sources of income, mostly in the fringe of the case study regions. How can recreation and tourism contribute to preserve landscapes in peri-urban areas? The case study research will focus on governance and spatial planning strategies that help to solve these problematic issues.