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Spatial planning can help sustainable urban development in countries in transition

Published: 09 May 2008

How do we make sure we properly address the many socio-economic and environmental challenges facing us? How do we balance the need for industrial and economic growth with the need to protect the environment? How do we develop new housing and transport infrastructures while limiting urban sprawl and its impact on climate? How do we enhance the competitiveness of urban areas while fighting poverty in the outskirts of cities? 

Central and Eastern Europe and the Caucasus are experiencing an unprecedented growth of their urban areas and urgently need to develop systems that are appropriate for their social, economic and cultural environments.

A study launched today in Geneva by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) reports that spatial planning can provide an interdisciplinary platform for mapping policies for economic development, the environment and social cohesion.

“What we are presenting today might not be new for the more advanced countries in Europe”, noted Ms. Christina von Schweinichen, Acting Director of the Environment, Housing and Land Management Division at UNECE, “however, it is a powerful and effective planning tool for sustainable urban development in many countries in transition. For example, in most of the municipalities in South-Eastern Europe, approximately half of the housing stock was built in the 1970s without any physical or spatial plans. When land-use plans were envisaged, they did not anticipate the current patterns of growth”.

The study, which is addressed to policymakers in the region, provides principles, ideas and examples on how to translate countries’ visions for the future into long-term plans that cover conditions for development, the location of different activities and their impact on land and people.

The guidance provided draws also on the experiences of other UNECE countries. One example is the “Netherlands 2030” project, which explores long-term opportunities for and threats to spatial development in the country. It addresses the demand for space of a rapidly growing population and increasingly multicultural society, aiming to strike a balance between the needs for sustainable transport and technological innovations on the one hand and respect for the environment on the other.

“Smart” planning solutions also include the creation of strategic partnerships and networks, such as the informal conferences of local authorities in the city-regions of Scotland and the development of land-use guidelines such as those in Finland, promoting the local-level implementation of international agreements for the protection of cultural environment, biological diversity and climate change.

The publication is available on line at: http://www.unece.org/hlm/prgm/urbanenvperf/Publications/spatial_planning.pdf

For more information please contact:

Paola Deda

Secretary to the Committee on Housing and Land Management
UNECE Environment, Housing and Land Management Division
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Phone: +41 (0) 22 917 2553
Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 0107
E-mail: paola.deda@unece.org

Ref:  ECE/ENV/08/P04

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

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