The cities from this network searched for a solution to the following challenge: how can we make existing 20th century urban tissue attractive and qualitative again? How can we add a different urban layer? For the past two decades, urban development and planning practice in European cities and regions have focused on the renewal of metropolitan cores and historic inner cities. This has resulted in numerous success stories, but the wave of urban renewal in centres has generally coincided with strong population growth and demographic changes. Many inner cities have reached their peak in terms of density, population and mobility. At the same time most of the housing in 20th century (sub)urban areas are in need of renovation. The next logical step is a combined solution to these issues by reconverting this areas, to create a more sustainable and attractive environment.
The ALT/BAU Transfer Network focuses on alternative strategies in central and historic districts of European cities to activate unused and decaying housing stock resulting from demographic, economic and social change. Based on the experiences from Chemnitz’ URBACT Good Practice “Housing Agency for Shrinking Cities” (Agentur StadtWohnen Chemnitz), the network transfers experiences that proved successful to proactively connect administrations, owners, investors and users to initiate sustainable and resource saving development.
Transforming streets to create people-friendly places. The ambition of Thriving Streets is to improve sustainable mobility in urban areas from an economic and social perspective. The premise of the Thriving Streets network is that break-troughs in sustainable urban mobility can be established when mobility is no longer framed as just going from A to B but rather as a means for social-economic development of the city. The key question Thriving Streets network intends to answer is the following: “How can mobility become a motor for urban health, inclusivity, economy and social cohesion?”
September 10-11 : Phase 1 Kick-off Meeting in Paris (FR)
October 16-17 : Phase 1 Kick-off Meeting in Leiria (PT)
November 05 : Phase 2 Approval
February 04-05 : Phase 1 Transnational Meeting in Faenza, Unione della Romagna Faentina (IT), Italy
June 30 : Phase 2 Activation Meeting
September 18 : Phase 2 Symbolic Launch of Phase 2
November 19-20 : Transnational Meeting nº1 (online), Leiria (PT), Portugal
February : Partnership Meeting with Urban Agenda for UE "Security in Public Spaces" and Transnational Meeting nº2 (online), Mechelen (BE)
April 21-22 : Transnational Meeting nº3 (online), Madrid (ES)
May : Partnership Meeting with Urban Agenda for the UE (online) and Transnational Meeting nº4 (online), Longford (IE)
July 07-08 : Transnational Meeting nº5 (online), Szabolcs 05 Regional Development Association of Municipalities (SZRDA) - Mátészalka (HU)
October : Webinar - Urban Agenda for the EU "Just City Dimension" (online), Partnership Meeting with IMPETUS project, Intelligent Management of Processes, Ethics and Technology for Urban Safety (Horizon 2020) and Transnational Meeting nº6 + Mid-Term Review (online), Michalovce (SK)
January 20-21 : Transnational Meeeting nº7 (online), Pella (EL)
February 1-3 : URBACT e-University 2022 (online)
March 21 : Partnership Meeting with TONITE project - Urban Inovation Action (online)
April 20 : URBACT III National Meeting in Coimbra (PT)
May : Masterclass in CPTED - Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design in Leiria (PT) and Transnational Meeting nº8 in Parma (IT)
June : UrbSecurity Final Conference in Parma (IT) and Showcase the results of IAP and closing event in Leiria (PT)
August 18 : Partnership Meeting with IMPETUS project & Community of Safe and Secure Cities(COSSEC) in Oslo, Normay
This Action Planning Network analyses strategies and projective concepts of cities’ design that could contribute to prevent segregation and anti-social behavior, and consecutively to improve citizen’s quality of life and their perception of urban security and safety. The main objective is to implement an integrated and participatory approach to urban security by involving all relevant stakeholders in the process.
Space4People dealt with public space use in its cities and worked with its main use function: transport. Our focus was on walkability, quality of stay, mix of functions to achieve attractive public space for diverse user groups and a sustainable urban mobility scheme supporting such public spaces. Space4People has placed a user-centric approach at the core of its work that to assessed qualities and deficiencies, developed future visions and tested possible solutions to public space in our cities.
Space4People - mobility solutions for attractive public space
Cities that suffer from congestion, emission loads, social exclusion and, lastly decrease of the quality of life, have gathered in this Action Planning network. The road they have taken to tackle these challenges was the local adoption of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMP), a concept for
RiConnect is an Action Planning Network of 8 metropolises which aim is to rethink, transform and integrate mobility infrastructures in order to reconnect people, neighbourhoods, cities and natural spaces. We will develop planning strategies, processes, instruments and partnerships to foster public transport and active mobility, reduce externalities and social segregation and unlock opportunities for urban regeneration. Our long-term vision is a more sustainable, equitable and attractive metropolis for all.
Just before the publication of the New Leipzig Charter, and as the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union progresses, we share the insights from the final URBACT City Lab held in Porto earlier this year. The City Lab looked at the spatial dimension of urban development through three territorial lenses: neighbourhoods; municipalities; and small and medium-sized cities.
Once upon a time we met in Porto…
URBACT City Lab #4 happened only six month ago, alongside the Cities Forum, but it already feels like long ago! The idea of gathering hundreds of people from all across Europe seems surreal after spending the last few months shifting our working lives to digital. But it happened: more than 50 people attended day one of URBACT City Lab #4, and 700 on day two – one of the most popular sessions held at the Cities Forum this year!
This City Lab focused on the principle of Balanced Territorial Development. Although this may initially appear quite abstract, it relates to fundamental questions relating to the good functioning of our cities:
What challenges are best resolved at which levels?
How are decisions made and by whom?
How can vertical and horizontal collaboration be encouraged?
The City Lab explored these questions through three different territorial lenses: the neighbourhood level, the metropolitan dimension, and from the perspective of small and medium-sized cities. It confirmed the central role spatial issues continue to play in urban policy. In doing so, it acknowledged the importance of the initial Leipzig Charter’s principle relating to place, which is still reflected in the New Charter to be published in December.
In terms of implementation, the City Lab provided fresh insights into the ways cities are managing issues of territoriality. This includes the key question of governance and decision-making, as well as the approaches to tackling various policy issues which include mobility, poverty and employment.
Fighting poverty from the ground up
From the beginning of URBACT in 2002, poverty and inclusion-related topics have had an important focus. From the mid-2010s, one of the first URBACT capitalisation efforts aimed to draw out learning on Integration and Regeneration of Deprived Areas. In this detailed analysis, sectoral and place-based interventions were shown as two ideal types which cannot be ranked according to importance or efficiency.
URBACT City Lab #4 was an occasion to reaffirm these findings while sharing the more recent analysis undertaken by URBACT with the Urban Poverty Partnership of the Urban Agenda for the EU. The resulting Local Pact paper looks at four countries (France, Germany, Poland, and Spain) and their urban policies targeting deprived areas. It offers a policy framework for countries and cities, promoting placed-based approaches, combined with people-focused processes for designing and implementing poverty-reducing measures.
Joana Brzezińska, Deputy Director Revitalisation Bureau of the City of Łódź (PL), presented the results of Urban Regeneration Mix during the City Lab. This URBACT Transfer Network is working on fostering participation and collaboration in regeneration processes. She stressed that “from the local perspective, it’s easier to spot where the problems are, and to find solutions to them”. Reacting to her presentation, participants regretted that in many countries, the current policy, institutional framework and funding conditions of area-based interventions are mostly determined by the national level, giving cities relatively little room to make their own decisions.
Examples from Lille (FR) and Turin (IT) underlined other models in play across Europe. The French example, embedded within a long-established national framework, illustrated a rather top-down approach. At the other end of the spectrum was UIA Co-City’s example, one of many cities in Italy experimenting with the ‘commons’ concept. What links both of these cases, and that of Łódź, is the continued absence of real resources and decision making devolved to citizens. This remains one of the challenges to neighbourhood regeneration across Europe, as the first URBACT City Lab explored in detail.
Residents experimenting with the new urban commons approaches in via Agliè, Turin (IT)
Strengthening cooperation at metropolitan level
At the other end of the spatial scale, the City Lab questioned the role of the metropolitan level. Two very different models were compared. On the one hand we had Barcelona (ES), with its sophisticated and well-established structures, and on the other hand, we had Brno (CZ), with a looser framework for collaboration across municipalities.
It was interesting to explore the drivers behind these approaches. Whilst the Barcelona governance framework has been internally driven at the Catalan level, EU funding structures have been instrumental in shaping the Brno developments. Participants also discussed the need for national and regional funding programmes, not only for funding investments, but also as a means to incentivise cooperation in integrated urban development.
Stavba-Dornych, an example of major infrastructure work enabled through metropolitan cooperation in Brno (CZ)
Metropolitan cooperation during the lockdown proved to be very useful to respond to the crisis, especially regarding the use of public space, the re-organisation of mobility and other public services, and dealing with economic and social problems. The handling of the longer term economic, social and urban consequences of the pandemic will further evidence the importance of metropolitan areas.
Unleashing smaller cities’ potential
Set against the neighbourhood and metropolitan models, smaller cities are often overlooked. Recent tensions, such as the UK leaving the EU and the French ‘gilets jaunes’ movement, have underlined fears that such locations are being left behind. Such developments have encouraged policy-makers to pay more attention to these smaller urban areas. Against this background, URBACT has a long-standing interest in supporting smaller cities, and welcomes the reference to this spatial level in the New Leipzig Charter.
The three cases showcased during the City Lab #4 workshop - Igualada (ES), Amarante (PT) and Ventspils (LV) - evidenced how local integrated development strategies, building on genuine engagement with stakeholders and citizens, are making the most of the cities’ competitive advantages to develop revitalisation strategies.
Participants suggested policy instruments and measures in support of smaller cities’ vitality. They pointed at enabling higher fiscal autonomy of smaller cities and an increased capacity to influence political decisions at the national and regional levels to make them more compatible with their needs and aspirations. Many proposed measures were aimed at supporting skills upgrades of local practitioners and authorities – for example, to build their technological and digital capacities, but also to access EU funds and help them turn the EU Green Agenda and other high level programmes’ learning into concrete actions.
City Lab #4 participants sharing their experiences in a fishbowl format
The City Lab #4 report dives deeper into each city case as well as the history behind the development of integrated urban development and its spatial implications. It also evidenced the role of programmes such as URBACT in building capacities of cities and positioning local policies and city-level solutions within multi-level policy structures.
The New Leipzig Charter will be signed in Leipzig in December 2020. And URBACT will continue to illustrate the New Leipzig Charter’s approaches of ‘just’, ‘green’, and ‘productive’ cities by sharing more good practices and stories, and facilitating ongoing exchanges between cities.
Signed in 2007, the Leipzig Charter promoted and set out - for the first time in a single EU document - the key principles behind the use of ‘integrated urban development’ policy. More than 20 years later, the context facing European cities has significantly changed.. The global financial crisis, digital revolution, climate emergency and Covid-19 are amongst the most pressing developments, which shed a new light on the Charter’s original principles.
Since 2018, URBACT has participated in the European dialogue process to update the Leipzig Charter. In this context - and in collaboration with Eurocities and Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) - URBACT has organised a series of City Labs drawing on the direct experience of hundreds of cities.
How can we improve urban green spaces in order to promote mental and physical health for our communities? Health&Greenspace Action Planning Network links green infrastructure design and management to urban health policies and practices. The project focuses on physical and mental health benefits of urban green spaces, as well as their role in improving social health and air quality and reducing heat stress in cities. Actions targeted by the network are linked to both physical changes to the urban environment and the promotion of social activities such as community, cultural, education and physical activity programs in green areas.
This Action Planning network aims to deepen the relationship between health and the urban environment, planning actions that focus on improving the population’s health, while developing a rigorous health impact assessment around it. Urban Planning can become a health generator on many grounds. This partnership reflects the multiplicity of possible approaches to tackle the issue: green areas, mobility, social cohesion or promotion of sports are some examples.