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Realising the Potential of Abandoned Military Sites as an Integral part of Sustainable Urban Community Regeneration
  • Integrated Urban Development Physical Urban Development

Closing military facilities often occurs abruptly and has major consequences for the economy and for local communities. For cities, former military or historical sites can be catalysts for urban renewal in that they have an important financial position and that they often have historic buildings with potential cultural value. For the partner cities in the URBACT REPAIR project, the challenge consisted in finding new socio-economic functions for these abandoned sites with the goal of putting them to the service of sustainable development thanks to the joint consideration of four challenges: transport, energy, employment and preserving heritage.

Main Results

A methodology for turning abandoned military/historic sites into tools for urban renewal

1- Making the site once again attractive to inhabitants and investors, while integrating environmental and renewal energy objectives into the project.

2- Renewing the site while safeguarding its cultural and historic heritage. This could create limitation when it comes to integrating renewable energy solutions.

3- Linking isolated sites to the public transport network. Prisons and military sites are, in effect, often built on hills and at a distance from the cities. It is challenging to include these sites in the public transport plan. In Malta (the city of Paola), for example, developers created synergies with the public transport network and bike paths between the various site buildings.

4- Ensuring that the proposed urban renewal plans for abandoned military sites meet European legislation and correspond to its priorities. This is one of the principles missing from the projects developed by the REPAIR partners, which reduces their chances of receiving European Union funding.

5- Focus its efforts on taking into account local needs and resources and the local legislative context, while pursuing a goal of integrating the four priorities identified by REPAIR (transport, energy, employment, preserving heritage). The partner cities that consulted the authorities and stakeholders early on managed to get a good idea of the whole and to make sure that these priorities correspond to the identified local needs. This is the case, notably, for Medway, Paola and Karlskrona, which managed to implement three-party cooperation (municipality, universities, local businesses).

6- Associating the Managing Authority in renewal plans in order to make sure one has the support of funding from regional operational programmes.

7- Motivating investors and public authorities to invest in the abandoned military sites rather than in abandoned “green” sties, by spotlighting the assets of the already existing buildings and of the existence of road access to the infrastructure.

Recommendations for cities

The URBACT projects, their objectives and results, should be taken into account better in the local political context (that is, in the strategic documents and local and regional planning), especially as examples of good practices. The project lead by REPAIR to link the renewal of abandoned military sites to a sustainable development objective that is much broader is essential. The development needed around these sites should be part of a much larger plan and should benefit local communities.

Attention should be paid to the wider benefits that the renewal of the sites has for employment, and their integration into the public transport networks and local mobility projects. A “win-win” project will enable better support of this type of project, if the tangible results are presented to the stakeholders.

There are numerous obstacles to the development of abandoned industrial sites at both a national and local level. It is therefore necessary to do whatever it necessary to encourage the creation of three-party cooperation (municipality, universities and local business) for the planning and funding of this type of action.

Recommendations for European Actions


Specific attention should be paid within European institutions to the impact that European legislation has on historical sites. It is particularly important to ensure that the application of European directives for the management of historical sites (those related to habitat, air quality, water, waste, energy and noise pollution) are covered.

On European funding programmes

The REPAIR partner cities consider that certain programmes focussed on innovative local solutions do not take the specific characteristics of these sites enough into account. For example, technical work on energy efficiency and renewable energy, in particular in urban centres, could be financially supported by European programmes such as Intelligent Energy Europe and the FP7.

On joint programming initiative for research

REPAIR partner cities are pleased with having created a joint programming initiative (JPI) on the topic “Cultural heritage and global change: a new challenge for Europe”. They that the Competitiveness Council ensures that the issues linked to the renewal of historic military sites be taken into account in the creation of research programmes.

Europe 2020: flagship initiatives for the efficient use of resources/environmental policy

As part of the environmental policy for green infrastructure and Territorial Agenda, the REPAIR partner cities called on the European Commission to develop a European Strategy for environments that combine built and natural heritage.

For energy measures

REPAIR partner cities are please with the initiative of the Convention of Associated Mayors and Council published by the European Commission. The cities recommend developing tools to advise on energy efficiency and renewable energy for the cities that have signed the Mayors Convention and possess a large number of historical sites, including former military sites.

For transport and accessibility policies

REPAIR partner cities are please with the European Commission’s Urban Mobility Action Plan and recommend that in the monitoring actions, special attention be given to issues of mobility and access to former military sites inside or around urban centres. They ask more specifically for supporting access to these sites with multi-modal solutions such as combinations of pedestrian, bike and water access.

For cultural policy

REPAIR partner cities demand better recognition of historical buildings as part of Europe’s “cultural infrastructure” contributing to economic attractiveness, the development of employment and quality of life.

Key Europe 2020 initiatives – an agenda for new competencies and jobs

REPAIR partner cities call on European institutions to recognize the contribution that could be made by the deployment of this agenda in favour of renewing abandoned military sites using integrated approaches.

Key Europe 2020 initiatives – Union for innovation

REPAIR partner cities are pleased with European funds being made available for promoting the exchange of experiences based on the “triple helix” approach and the development of competence clusters (for example through INTERREC IVC and the FP7 programme for Knowledge Regions). They recommend that this type of action be developed in the Joint Strategic Framework for Research and Innovation Funding.

For integrated policies and sustainable development

In order to promote broader work on urban sustainability at the European level, the REPAIR partner cities recommend that national ministers in charge of urban policies and territorial planning develop a Council for Sustainable Urban Development.

For the European Territories Strategy

The REPAIR partner cities recommend the adoption of a European territorial development strategy for environments that combine built and natural heritage, and this in the framework of environmental policy for green infrastructure and the Territorial Agenda.

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