Browsing this web site you accept techinical and statistical cookies. close [ more info ]


European Spatial Planning - Review

by Luisa Pedrazzini

In front of a audience of architects and students attending a lecture at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, Andreas Faludi asserted: "Planning is not about design, but about policy". From this provocative starting point European Spatial Planning collect reflections of a number of European and North American scholars and researchers on the role of planning as a discipline that draws up strategy rather then binding rules, on European planning character and on relationships between Europe and the US.
North American planners assert that, despite their planning debate being more lively and their role in the society more defined, European diversity is interesting because sometimes they see things in Europe that they miss in their own society. Thanks to the integration process promoted by the EU, the history and distinctive character of Europe are becoming more evident; to the point that somebody identifies a "European model of society", that with the aim of cohesion needs the formulation of a common strategy for European spatial development too.
European states, throughout the Union, are becoming an integrated social and economic system and a growing number of people now think of themselves not only as Italian, French or German, but also as European.
Referring to these themes, and in particular to territorial cohesion, this book describes the parallel process that is occurring in the planning world, the new forms of planning and the new framework of reference for territorial planning in the European continent.
Recognizing the particular character of European planning is also important to master key terms such as "susbsidiarity" and "competency", created by the new language "Euro-English" to share concept arising from different languages and experiences and whose spatial planning refers too. It is also important to be aware of a particular planning practice with a European identity, strengthened by the link to the lead objective of cohesion, now extended to territorial matter.
This goal, referred to a issue that is not of the Community but of Member States, has become a concurrent competence between the EU and Member States in the present version of the European Constitution.
For the USA, where a national master plan doesn't exist to address territorial development at a Union scale, it is interesting that the EU despite not being a federal republic yet (still only hypothetical about the juridical and institutional form of the present consortium of European states) already promotes common territorial development aims. This apparent paradox was confirmed in 1999 with the approval of the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) by the ministers responsible for territorial planning of the Member States. This document designs objectives and addresses for the European spatial development. Some interpret this document as a kind of appointment from the Member States to the Commission to define territorial development strategies, promoting paradoxally a inverse bottom up approach.
European Spatial Planning reviews debate and reflections on the ESDP as a document which Americans look at with much interest because it looks like a plan at a continental scale.
EU and USA are both global economic competitors but with important social-economic and demographic differences and with a diverse territorial development approach. The ESDP takes note of this situation and expresses the aim to address, ambitiously, the global competitiveness of Europe with integrating society (equity) and environment in the frame of economic objectives. Society, economy and environment are the corners of the ESDP "triangle" for a sustainable and balanced spatial development.
The book is made up of four sections in which reflections are presented on: "European Planning Practices", "Theorising European Spatial Planning", "The Future of European Spatial Planning" and finally the Conclusion, and a Epilogue with Implications for American Planners.
Throughout the analysis of the contents of the ESDP, considered the most famous planning document in the world, despite being one of the least known amongst planners, the authors present their reflections with a multifaceted vision of European planning.
Different points of view are considered by the contributors to this book to explore the theme of the European spatial planning, they range from scholars to public officials (chap.2). As an example the programme Interreg IIC has performed a prodrome role in developing transnational cooperation between European regions on the ESDP issues. It has been later substituted by the larger Community Interest Programme Interreg IIIB.
In chapter 3 a transnational cooperation project in the field of spatial development of the North-west area (Benelux) is presented. It involved the countries of the central core of the ESDP "pentagon", where a cooperative planning experience without hierarchies is promoted among states, regions and local authorities.
The ESDP cornerstone concept of polycentrism is highlighted and made evident in chapter 4 as a largely shared objective among EU Member States, although it still isn't carried out as a scientific and shared definition yet. In chapters 5, 6, 7 transnational cooperation projects on spatial planning carried out in Interreg IIC are examined. The term "spatial vision" is often evoked in projects such as NorVISION, aiming at a shared spatial vision of the North Sea area, and in the project Nortwesthern Metropolitan Area (NWMA) referring to the North Western Europe region.
In chapter 7 the process of the application of the ESDP is more deeply explored, as a vertical-horizontal coordination activity between different public administrations and instruments as drafted in the document.
Chapter 8 confronts as a theme the challenge of the uncertain borders of the EU and its enlargement, with reference to cooperation and cohesion. The following chapter presents considerations on European spatial planning in a long term perspective looking to 2010, with a Union enlarged to 27 Member States.
In the last chapter Andreas Faludi revisits the theme of the relationship between spatial planning and European integration having as a reference the existent literature and suggesting an agenda for reflections and research on the European spatial planning. In the final epilogue research subjects are suggested to American planners.
Many of the authors of this book have directly lived the process of making of the European Spatial Development Perspective; Faludi himself worked for more than a decade on this theme both as a commentator and to disseminate the emerging planning practices.
Particularly interesting and complete is in the book the selection of maps of Europe, representing a result of multiannual analysis and interpretations of European territorial dynamics (starting from the "blue banana" to "the bunch of grapes", to the "pentagon"), worked out by scholars, researcher or coming from official documents of the Commission.
The importance of maps is highlighted by the editor who asserts: "Maps are the bread and butter of almost any kind of spatial planning". Paradoxally so far the elaboration of maps has been one of the most difficult activities of European spatial planning. Reasons are fundamentally three asserts Faludi. The first is that European spatial planning is a discipline still too young and it isn't easy to work out harmonised visual representations. The second is a consequence of the first, because neither a planning with an European identity still exists, nor a group of scholars that can be considered representative of a European planning as a whole. So far experts and researchers have been coming from different planning tradition and they use data and maps differently. The third reason is that maps are very sensitive instruments because they are "clearer then verbal expression of policy".
North Americans ask themselves if European states have committed to the Union the competence to carry out a territorial plan for Europe more so than them; but inside Europe this consideration is still to be deepened too. The European spatial model and interpretation proposed by EU documents were formed in a restricted spatial and disciplinary area.
Faludi introduces the "roving band of planners" that participated to the making of the spatial planning with a European identity. This group belongs to the geographic heart of Europe of the Fifteen.
European spatial planning has mainly been a matter of countries such as France, Netherlands and Germany: They have played a fundamental role in the process of the making of a common idea of territorial cohesion in Europe.
Some shared concepts of European Commission documents such as: "polycentrism", "town-country relationship" or "European Urban Functional Area", as they are contained in the ESDP, have theoretical foundations originated in geographical areas very well delineated and have been assumed in the absence of a widely shared scientific definition. Suitable instruments for a harmonised analysis of the European territory are under preparation in these years with the creation of the European Spatial Policy Observation Network with the participation of all the Member States.
European Spatial Planning offers a structured and complete framework to understand the European spatial planning and its theoretical and cultural fundaments. Further, it allows to make opportune reflections on the position of South Europe countries in the process, on their early marginal rule in the making of a European Spatial planning identity, fearing spatial planning and the creation of a Spatial planning observatory as instruments used to potentially reduce its share on Structural Founds.
Within this framework it is even more important to know the new planning and spatial models emerging in Europe, among them cooperative planning, suitable for a more and more de-hierarchized and internationalised territorial system as is emergent from the Community transnational cooperation projects. Further, it is also important to consider the joining of the new Member States that will contribute to modify dramatically economic and territorial standard of the European Union.

This is a review for: