• Nine solutions for more vibrant, productive cities

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    These local actions for community participation and productivity are inspiring cities across the EU. Could they work in yours too?


    The New Leipzig Charter highlights three forms of the transformative city which can be harnessed in Europe to enhance people’s quality of life: the Just City, the Green City and the Productive City.

    URBACT’s latest publication is packed with sustainable solutions to address these three dimensions – all tried, tested and transferred between EU cities, with adaptations for each local context.

    To give a taste of the stories told in ‘Good Practice Transfer: Why not in my City?’, here are nine examples of local actions for Productive Cities. We hope towns and cities of all sizes will be inspired to ‘Understand, Adapt and Re-use’ participative solutions like this – from education and entrepreneurship to efficient governance and better use of urban spaces – improving everyday life for residents, and supporting a just transition to a green economy.


    1. Give citizens a card for local services

    To simplify everyday life in Aveiro (PT), the municipality got together with stakeholders to launch a card that will give citizens easy access to public services such as the library, museum, buses and shared bikes, as well as improved online and front desk support. A first step was to issue a student card to access school services across the city, from stationery and meals, to school trips. The idea is to promote a smarter, more open, resilient and inclusive society. Aveiro and four other URBACT partner cities are introducing their local versions of ‘CARD4ALL’ based on good practice from Gijón, a Spanish city that has provided citizen cards for nearly 20 years.


    2. Put residents’ wellbeing at the heart of urban regeneration

    In a project to bring an old playing field back into use, Birmingham (UK) gave local people the power to drive improvements themselves, thanks to a Community Economic Development Planning model, mirroring successful approaches already used in Łódź (PL). Building on this positive start, residents went on to co-produce an alternative Community-Led Master Plan for the wider area — where all council plans had previously been opposed. Council-appointed community ‘ambassadors’ now work with local residents, businesses, service providers and volunteers with a direct stake in the area’s economic health. And the approach is being rolled out across other areas of the city. Birmingham is one of six cities to learn from Łódź’ collaborative model as part of the URBAN REGENERATION MIX network.


    3. Create a digital business hub with a local twist 

    The Greek city of Piraeus founded a new ‘Blue Lab’ near its harbour — the first Blue Economy Innovation Centre in Greece. Equipped with state-of-the-art technology, Blue Lab welcomes students and entrepreneurs, providing business mentoring, tech and entrepreneurship training. It has boosted cooperation with businesses and schools, and sparked an array of prototype technology solutions. Piraeus’ further plans now include a new larger co-working space, training facilities to upskill the workforce, and investment in more advanced technologies. Piraeus is one of six URBACT Tech Revolution network partner cities to set up their own start-up support schemes based on the Digital Media Centre in Barnsley (UK), an URBACT-listed Good Practice that has become a successful hub for local creative and digital business.


    4. Build local partnerships around education

    By involving parents, school staff, local clubs and council departments in ‘Educational Innovation Networks’ (EIN), the city of Halmstad (SE) is boosting local connections and sparking improvements in education. Thanks to the URBACT ON BOARD network, Halmstad learnt from Viladecans (ES) who originally formed an EIN to improve education as part of a drive to reverse rising unemployment and declining growth. Halmstad adopted new ideas, including ‘Positive Mindset and Emotions’ for better learning and methods for improving pupil participation. Communication within the municipality also improved thanks to cross-departmental clusters focusing on: Care and Support; Education and Learning; Growth and Attractiveness; and Infrastructure.


    5. Open a ‘living room’ for local clubs and residents

    Idrija (SI) transformed an empty shop into a ‘living room’ for the town, with free activities run by, and for, local associations and inhabitants. City administrators, social services and economic departments, local clubs and active citizens, are all involved in the project, as well as the regional development agency, library and retirement home. As a result, the site has become a meeting place open to all, with events focusing on topics as diverse as housing refurbishment, chess, and knitting. It also hosts a municipality-supported free transport service for elderly people and a book corner run by the local library. Idrija’s solution was modelled on the ‘Stellwerk’ NGO platform launched in Altena (DE) as a solution to help manage the town’s long-term decline.


    6. Turn unused buildings into homes

    Chemnitz’s (DE) ‘Housing Agency for Shrinking Cities’ helps transform empty buildings into valuable housing while reducing speculation, channeling grant money, and cutting future costs for both the owners of decaying buildings and the municipality. Initiated and funded by the city authorities, the project is carried out in the public interest by a long-standing private partner. This model inspired Vilafranca del Penedès (ES), partner in the URBACT ALT/BAU network, to review its housing policies and look for private partners with the technical capacity and financial solvency to help the city recover abandoned housing units. As a result, Vilafranca has signed an agreement with a social foundation whose main objective is to identify, obtain and rehabilitate low-priced rental housing in collaboration with job agencies.


    7. Launch a blue entrepreneurship competition (for cities near water!) 

    The port city of Mataró (ES) is boosting local entrepreneurship and jobs in the maritime economy – inspired by a BlueGrowth initiative in Piraeus (EL). Mataró encouraged diverse public and private stakeholders to get involved, including the City Promotion team, regional ‘Barcelona Nautic Cluster’, local port authority, and a technology park that hosts the University and a business incubator. The resulting Mataró Blue Growth Entrepreneurship competition provides cash prizes, mentoring and access to a business accelerator programme. So far winning projects include a boat repair franchise, a boat propulsion system, and an app linking up superyachts with relevant services.


    8. Help city employees become innovators

    When Turin (IT) teamed up with private sponsors to launch a competition inviting 10 000 municipal staff to submit innovative ideas for improving the administration's performance, winning proposals included solutions for improving community participation, smart procurement, and lighting in public buildings. This inspired Rotterdam (NL) and five other cities in the URBACT Innovato-R network to draw on Turin’s experience to boost innovation and process improvement in their own cities. As a result, Rotterdam took a fresh approach with its existing innovation network of over 1 800 civil servants and 500 external stakeholders, strengthening links with businesses and academics, introducing new online ‘inspiration sessions’, and co-designing a new innovation platform.


    9. Harness the power of public spending 

    Koszalin (PL) analysed the city’s procurement spending and is using the resulting evidence to shape public procurement practices in order to benefit the local economy, while taking into account social and environmental factors. To do so, they used a spend analysis tool that was originally developed by Preston (UK) and transferred to six EU cities via the URBACT Making Spend Matter network. Koszalin also started working more closely with key ‘anchor institutions’ in the city, such as the hospital and university, exploring how much they spend, and where that money goes geographically. Meanwhile, they improved support for local SME participation in public procurement.


    Find out more about these and many more sustainable city solutions – in the new URBACT publication ‘Good Practice Transfer: Why not in my City?’.

    Visit the Good Practice database for more inspiration.


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  • Five ways to promote an integrated approach in your city

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    Lessons from the URBACT City Lab #3 focused on the principle of integration.

    Disadvantaged neighbourhoods

    Integration is a weasel word. Hard to pin down, it means different things to different people. The 3rd URBACT City Lab brought city practitioners and policy

    makers together in Warsaw to explore this tricky principle. What does it mean for cities and what do we mean by an integrated approach to sustainable urban development?

    The Lab findings will feed into the German EU presidency’s refresh of the Leipzig Charter in 2020.
    So, what did we learn?

    Here are five headlines.

    1. Re-state our values and find new ways to measure success

    The world now looks very different to 2007, when the Leipzig Charter appeared. Since then we’ve witnessed a global financial crisis, the digital revolution and increasing globalisation. We’ve also seen the rise of populism and the fragmentation of trust between the public and politicians. Many European cities struggle with widening inequalities.

    Going forward into the 2020s, do we expect our cities to adopt a ‘business as usual’ approach or, instead, are we at a fork in the road? New economic thinkers like Kate Raworth are creating an alternative economic framework that challenges the old assumptions. Her "Doughnut Economics" approach bounds our economic activity within the scope of the environment, raising questions that every city should consider.

    Kate sets out seven ways to think like a 21st century economist. The first is to change the goal. Across Europe cities including Stockholm (SE), Amsterdam (NL) and Berlin (DE) are exploring these new ideas, looking to reshape our idea of successful integrated cities.

    2. Become bilingual and free range

    Lab participants spoke about the factors driving mistrust between citizens and government. They include the use of official language which alienates people as well as the impersonalisation of services through the use of technology. The net effect is a barrier between the people and the services which their taxes fund.

    Cities are exploring ways to address these challenges. In a previous URBACT network, the Mayor of Amersfoort (NL) encouraged City Hall staff to get out from behind their desks in order to engage directly with citizens. He spoke about free range civil servants, who are comfortable out in the community. In fact they are part of the community; parents, neighbours and citizens like everyone else. But this requires a shift in mindset for some municipal officials, which requires support and encouragement.

    The city of Łodz (PL) has embraced this concept in its regeneration approach to a 6.5 hectare site characterised by residential buildings constructed in the late 19th century. As part of this sensitive work, the city recruited and trained a large team of local mediators, literally go-betweens linking the neighbourhood with the municipality. This element of their good practice is one of the components being transferred to cities in the Urban Regeneration Mix network, includes Zagreb (HR), Braga (PT) and Toulouse (FR). Too often, city authorities outsource this engagement activity to third parties, and in doing so, miss the opportunity to build capacity and experience in house.

    3. Harness the power of public spending

    Making Spend Matter is an URBACT Transfer network focused on mobilising the significant power of public spending to achieve local impact. The starting point is recognising the significant scale of public budgets, and their importance to local economies. The approach, which started in Preston (UK) has involved getting a better snapshot of what is spent, where and with whom.

    During this initial phase, the city saw the proportion of its public spend with Preston based suppliers increase from 5% to 18%, and the proportion spent with regional based suppliers increase from 39% to 79%. The model starts with a local spend analysis, and seven other cities are currently transferring the approach through this network. By definition, the approach requires public partners to collaborate, through the mobilisation of anchor institutions across all sectors. This is integration in action!

    4. Revisit approaches to tackling poverty

    Although welfare models are complex and varied across Europe, there’s a general consensus that they are failing. At the same time, we see that investment in physical revitalisation can often lead to gentrification and the displacement of the most vulnerable.

    Many city authorities are looking at new and innovative ways to address this. One example is Aarhus (DK) which is successfully personalising budgets designed to support people back to work. Another is Barcelona (ES), which has an Urban Innovative Actions project, B-MINCOM aimed at breaking cycles of deprivation in Besos, one of the city’s poorest neighbourhoods. There, average household income is around 50% of the city rate.

    The approach provides a guaranteed minimum income level to 1,000 households on a trial basis. It combines the income guarantee with an active programme of employment support and enterprise development. As the pilot concludes in autumn 2019, it will have important lessons to share across Europe.

    5. Embrace the integrated approach!

    The Leipzig Charter was one of the earliest documents to promote an integrated approach to urban development. Almost 13 years later, many still struggle to understand what this means in practice. Many barriers stand in the way - including the departmental silos we find in City Hall.

    In response to this, URBACT has recently conducted detailed research exploring integrated working in practice. This identifies examples from cities working this way across Europe, and sets out practical tips to follow. Stories from Strasbourg (FR), Cluj-Napoca (RO) and Antwerp (BE) provide guidance and inspiration.

    A key message is that this isn’t as hard as it sounds, and city practitioners can break things into manageable chunks to help take them forward. The watchword is letting go of perfection. Perhaps that’s the first stage to adopting a more integrated approach.

    More learning from URBACT City Labs:

    More on Integrated approaches:


    The key principles of the original Leipzig Charter provided the focus for each URBACT City Lab.

    Explore the related outputs on Participation, Sustainability, Integration and Balanced Territorial Development.

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  • Improving the social dimension in the process of urban regeneration


    A collaborative city model that increases the participation of city residents, promotes their equal involvement and strengthens relations between the main stakeholders in urban regeneration processes.

    Joanna Brzezinska
    Regeneration Office
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    The original Good Practice of Łódź was the revitalization of the historic 6.5-hectare area of Priest’s Mill (Księży Młyn). This revitalisation included physical modernization and conservation of 25 city-owned multi-family buildings, all built in the 1870s and 1880s for factory workers and their families. Besides physical upgrading attention was given to economic activities, transforming some of dwellings into commercial premises, and social activities, establishing social economy, artistic and cultural entities.
    In the second half of the 2010s the revitalization activities shifted towards the much larger rundown central area of the city, built in with old tenement houses. Lodz combined the practice of its pioneer project with the knowledge gained from the URBACT Transfer Network Urban Regeneration Mix (2019-2021). As a result, the role of mediators was further strengthened and extended with new tasks and responsibilities.

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    In order to organize the work and keep contact with the residents, the original model of mediator was a kind of „sheriff” function, regarding his competences (mediations, conflict and change management) the attitude towards people, and position in the complicated structure of Lodz city management. In the course of time this role and function have been further developed, towards a new system, establishing a team of mediators: Social Lighthouse Keepers and Area Hosts, who take care of about 700 families in the area of eight priority revitalization projects of the city center. Their core activities at the beginning were to help to solve the inhabitants' housing and everyday life problems. This approach, dealing predominantly with difficulties, was extended (on the inspiration of Braga and Birmingham) towards broader socio-cultural animation, as a tool for involving and activating residents, looking at the revitalisation area from a more wide perspective. A further step towards new competences of mediators was taken on the example of Toulouse and Birmingham, extending their tasks to work also with other stakeholders in the revitalisation area. On the one hand this meant to bring together all entities, including private investors, in a given area, allowing for an integrated management of the entire investment process. On the other hand, a community connector role was introduced, motivating and inspiring small groups of inhabitants to take bottom-up actions, building in them a sense of community and responsibility for the space and the neighbors with whom they share it.

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    The most important element of the original practice was the presence of an official person responsible for revitalisation and the fact that the residents could always report problems and failures. On that basis the residents have started to react to acts of vandalism and violence. Besides the residents also other actors became better partners of the renewal process, e.g. administrators of infrastructure networks, artists, Police and Municipal Police. With the further development of the project, introducing the extended roles of the team of mediators, it became even easier to constantly adjusting to the residents’ requirements and opinions. Mediators now have also "managerial" skills, not only supporting the local community, but related also to the involvement of employees in other activities carried out in the area, such as: cross-financing, cooperation with entrepreneurs, communities, participation in local initiatives, creating a network of understanding between institutions, cooperation in projects implemented in the neighbourhood.

    Based on a participatory approach

    In this project, various forms of social consultations have been worked out. MEDIATOR: supporting the inhabitants in the process of change and relocation, focusing on problem solving. LOCAL COMMUNITY ORGANISER who integrates, activates and works with the residents and institutions in the area to create an integrated neighbourhood. AREA MANAGER a representative of the residents and institutions from the territory under his care in the municipality, who monitors and actively participates in all meetings and activities affecting the people living and working in the area, as well as the organisations and enterprises operating there.

    What difference has it made?

    The historic housing estate built for factory workers in the 19th century had been neglected for decades. Now the buildings regain their residential function with 21st century standards, but they preserve their former functions as well and the public space layout designed 140 years ago is preserved, too. At the same time, dwellings in these buildings, most of which are city-owned and include communal flats, serve to meet one of the most basic social needs, which is to ensure shelter for people who cannot afford to rent an apartment on the open market. All activities are conducted in a way that makes it possible to preserve the original urban fabric of the site. The fact of great importance is that thanks to direct relations with people, help is given in the first place to those who need it most. This kind of approach helps to increase social trust in the authorities, in the city. The residents feel they really can influence the actions, and that the city strives to help them and understands their needs and problems. Also, activities aimed at including people in cultural life are conducted. Together, artists and the city organize events in which the residents participate. The project is a perfect example of how activities contributing to social inclusion should be performed. Some people have gotten jobs at companies renovating the area. Similar processes are under way in the ongoing city centre urban regeneration programme. At the end of the Urbact network, the city of Łódź will be able to present a comprehensive model of competence and activities of the Area Manager, i.e. a mediator working at an advanced stage of creating a social mix. The commissioning of the tenement houses after renovation in the city centre area started at the end of 2019, and time is needed to gain experiences to what extent it succeeded to create social mix in the renewed area. The development of the good practice and the improvement of the mediator's function will in the future influence the Housing Policy in Łódź also besides urban renewal, extending to the scope of spare flats, removals and contact with resident. Mediator is a unique function that is also part of the strategic project of Intelligent Social Policy - an integrated information system. Effective implementation of mediation may contribute to the introduction of strategic changes in the understanding of the contact between the Office and the resident.

    Transferring the practice

    After being awarded the URBACT Good Practice title, Lodz was able to create the Urban regeneration Mix Transfer Network to which six European cities (Baena, Birmingham, Bologna, Braga, Toulouse and Zagreb) were invited which were similarly facing the challenge of raising the level of participation in revitalised areas. Equipped by URBACT with a toolkit, the cities could learn from each other. The transfer process was not one-sided, during the transnational meetings the existing practices of some of the transfer cities inspired Lodz and contributed to the improvement of the Good Practice in the way described above. The area, which used to be considered not so safe and ill-famed, has become one of the most interesting spaces in the city for its atmosphere and unique historical characteristics.

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  • Railway Hubs: Changing track in stakeholder engagement

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    Railway station locations are increasingly being re-invented as vibrant, multi-functional, multi-modal urban attraction poles. This inspired the URBACT ENTER.HUB network to explore opportunities which the “Railway Hub” concept can bring to cities. This innovative transformation can also help in understanding new governance and participation models.


    Redefining a vital urban resource 

    When the railways came to our cities in the 19th century, few obstacles were laid in their path - yet only occasionally did this life-changing transportation infrastructure penetrate the very heart of existing urban centres (Koln, Edinburgh). The establishment of terminus, or through stations, on the edge of historic centres is a more familiar pattern, taken to extremes in the array of mainline termini built to serve major cities like London and Paris. The station became monument to a new age. Responsibility for development and management rested firmly in the hands of the “railway company” in a relatively simple relationship with city authority based on land ownership transactions, provision of mutually supporting services etc. Travel was the primary factor shaping the functional role of the station. With citizenry in the role of client, customer, consumer the new urban poles provided all that was required to support this progressive transportation experience – travel information/ticketing hall/offices, waiting facilities, restaurant, cafe, newsstands, hotels, connection to cabs and in best circumstances to other transport networks.

    Today these stations have mostly been swallowed up in the expansion of our urban/suburban landscapes. Over time they have adapted to accept changes in service provision (downsizing of counter facilities) and new functional opportunities, but generally remained key locations in the urban development dynamic. High Speed Train technology (underpinned by EU TEN strategy) encouraged fundamental re-assessment of the position of mainline stations – Euralille, St.Pancras, Frankfurt International Airport... and their societal role. Vocabulary changes, we talk of “Railway Hubs” which characterise a process of re-invention, adaptation and renewal.

    The Railway Hub: a complex meeting of interests

    The ENTER.HUB network focussed on added-value of the Rail Hub concept as an innovative force for integrated, sustainable urban and mobility planning (these two working in essential concert). Building on identity and fundaments of the past (urban, architectural icons), the station and its surroundings become a new central place in the city (paradoxically also if a hub is located on the edge or even outside the existing functional urban area). The Hub connects neighbourhoods rather than confirming railway infrastructure as a barrier (“the other side of the tracks”) and is no longer simply the domain of the traveller[1]. The offer of a network of services remains but is not limited to mobility, and can include commercial, housing, education, cultural, tourism facilities. This nodal point, urban interface repositions the station area as a “prime” location attracting new development, business and employment initiatives, and inhabitants, within a sustainable, multi-modal mobility and development logic. It is a public good where attractiveness and quality of life is reflected in the provision of public space with reduced dependency on the private vehicle - a connector, a gateway, red carpet, city lounge. (see Enter.Hub video)

    While transportation is still core business of this broadened perspective, any transformation, new construction, densification or intensification of activity patterns can also generate negative impacts both in the short and long term. So when seeking to exploit the advantages of the Hub as a composite, inclusive element it is also necessary to forestall or at least mitigate potential adverse effects. In this situation affected populations (residents, shop-owners, travellers and commuters...) become privileged partners not only confined to the immediate locality but describing a much wider catchment area and broad range of interest groups. Also the Rail Hub as entity no longer corresponds to the conventional property limits of the station complex (rail company). Achieving new urban added value through integration of ancillary issues and functions - combined with smart, sustainable, inclusive growth and development ambitions - increases the complexity of the challenge facing policy makers. This requires involvement of a growing range of actors responsible for delivery of products and services (civil and network engineering, business and [private] investment, retail, [sustainable] mobility interchange management, culture, residential, public space and amenity).

    Of necessity, Railway Hubs have mobilised new forms of governance, based on joint-leadership, partnership and co-production, transforming the conventional “single driver” model. This has been accompanied by blurring of traditional relationships and roles, and a general trend towards engaging with civic society, citizens and end-users. Long established competence boundaries are put in question – where for instance the public authority becomes enabler rather than provider, the railway company is freed to act as property developer and the private sector is encouraged to contribute to enhancing the public realm... The Railway Company is key, if not dominant, stakeholder - main service provider, net coordinator, infrastructure manager and often principal landowner - but cannot independently deliver the comprehensive and coherent package of initiatives required to establish the Hub formula. ENTER.HUB partner experiences shed some interesting light on how cities are concretely addressing this complexity.

    URBACT cities connecting hubs to stakeholders

    In previewing its Hub project Creil Agglomeration highlighted the difficulty of having to work with 2 railway authorities SNCF (railway operator) and RFF (owner of the rail infrastructure) where exact division of responsibility is sometimes unclear or seems to overlap. It is however developing a core partnership to steer the process based on participation across 3 categories: land owners (railway, Agglomeration, municipalities, private property owner); transport providers (rail, regional, inter-city and local bus operators, Oise transport managing authority), and; urban planning authorities (Picardy Region, Creil Agglomeration, constituent and neighbouring municipalities). The aim is to produce a viable master plan (see diagram above) based on joint reflection around 8 working group themes (i.e. mobility, urban functions, public space...) where public consultation plays an integral role.

    In Germany the city of Ulm and Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) co-piloted the project “City Station Ulm” which is embedded in statutory planning policy at all relevant levels. Together they instigated an ideas competition (2011) targeting railway station renewal, and the city initiated a stakeholder forum structure. This permanent interaction with stakeholders and local society has been instrumental in bringing new ideas into the planning process which in turn can be validated and formalised into the system of legally binding land-use plans and building permissions.

    This sophisticated stakeholder participation (see diagram below) involves a cyclical round of consultation feeding input into different stages or critical moments in the decision-making trajectory. An integrated perspective is ensured by engaging  groups representing specific interests, operating as focussed think tanks and channelling ideas, information (even critical feedback/objection) to the steering group. These groups are activated to follow concerns and propositions raised in a wider public consultation (citizens plenary meeting), and then to arbitrate and formulate conclusions in a targeted round table discussion on particular development options. This format can be adapted to address distinct/key issues requiring resolution through time, where it is not essential that all fora are involved in all development issues or decisions. 

    The city has also instigated an internet forum recognising the potential which can be achieved through new (social) media opportunities.

    The extension of the “Station” into the “Hub” concept reaffirms the station, its surroundings and its multi-modal connections as a major civic asset. Conversely civic society has traditionally had very limited possibility to have a say in station development and organisation – a strategic matter, a question of technical infrastructure, a development led (finance, real estate, private or railway investment...) project. Ulm has shown that this no longer needs to be the case and the experience of Stuttgart[2] perhaps testifies that this must not be the case.

    The photo on the left shows a Rail Hub linear office development, located alongside the railway tracks. Underneath the whole length and breadth of this complex is a huge bicycle storage facility (photo below). The main entrance is 50 metres from the main rail platform, on the same level and has space to accommodate 4,000 bicycles, a rental and repair facility. This implies that the Hub management structure has a fundamental Bike garageunderstanding of the potential and needs of this specific user group and/or that cyclists, 2-wheel commuters, students have a direct input to the decision-making and master planning process. We might imagine similar levels of facility provision in Hub developments in cities in the Netherlands (Rotterdam or Heerlen), or in Copenhagen. But are we likely to see similar responses in Italy, Spain, France, Poland or the UK, all countries strongly interested in cycling as sport, recreational activity and as transport mode?

    Involving and empowering communities and end-users

    As a first step to define its hub strategy, the city of Orebrö (Sweden) is attempting to assess the opinions, desires and needs of its, institutional, private and community stakeholders. The aim is to create a new linear development ranged along the rail line infrastructure fringing the centre of the city. How does the railway connect with the rest of the city (centre and suburbs), is it opportune to exploit the existing two station polarity or re-centralise around a main Hub facility? These are fundamental choices to be made by the city, its development partners and citizens. Orebrö is using media to inform and invite participation initially through presentation of a video film programmed on local television, setting out possible options and points for discussion.

    A full consultation process is foreseen but initial focus is attempting to assess public opinions, using interviews at travel and shopping centres and through questionnaires circulated by social media and available in more conventional locations (schools, libraries, municipal offices). Already it has produced some unexpected results which need to be taken into account, for instance that 30% of respondents were unsure of how to make the connection between station and city-centre.

    The approach of Reggio Emilia supporting the development of the  Mediopadana Hub (regional - greenfield location outside the city) responds to the duality of technical/development actors in combination with wider stakeholders and civic society. A system of roundtable events functions to confront a “core group” with broader issues and aspirations raised by citizens, educational institutions, SMEs, cultural and touristic sectors etc. The URBACT Local Support Group method has helped to strengthen this dialogue. The scheme adopted can be read from a centripetal point of view (all needs, concerns, ideas are conveyed towards one or more common objectives and relevant solutions to be adopted by the core group), but also via a centrifugal perspective (decisions and projects raised through transversal exchange provide concrete answers/solutions responding to the needs and expectations of interest groups and even individual actors).

    Recognising the essential added value of stakeholder input – relevant stakeholders addressing publicly relevant issues

    Ultimately it is the citizenry, travellers, users of the Hub who are the beneficiaries and so the participative aspect is a key weapon in the armoury of an adapted management structure. However ENTER.HUB partners recognised that an effective leadership structure is essential in this type of large-scale complex initiative. It can be plural form of leadership or single agency driven - based on the concept of partnership but capable of taking critical decisions and putting these into operation. The Ulm (and Stuttgart) experience remind us that the final decision still rests with the appropriate elected authority while an Orebrö  partner remarked “One has to be sitting in the driving seat, but plenty of others need to be in the vehicle and say where they would like to go”. Public authorities can take an exemplary lead in developing high performance co-operative working in this sense i.e. between region and city, between neighbouring municipalities, between rail and other public transport companies (bus, tram, even car-sharing), and by translating this into a wider and effective consultation framework.

    Where participation is genuinely intended to inform, engage and co-produce then again according to Ulm – “it has to be incorporated from the outset and with a perspective of continuity”, but the Łódź position also has validity in that “not everyone needs to be involved everywhere” or at all times on all issues in this complex exercise. If however a participative structure is only introduced at a later stage or when difficulties arise there is real risk of obstruction, costly delay or even conflict which finally contradicts the principle of governance. In parallel, as Orebrö demonstrates how to build a strong (inter-active) communication strategy (incl. social media), Ulm suggests that the real challenge in this is to be transparent, setting out what is possible in terms of stakeholder contribution and exactly what the limits of the planning and participation process are.  

    The Railway Hub experience may never be fully community-led but it describes a trajectory far removed from conventional top-down intervention, traditionally defended by technical and capital considerations. ENTER.HUB partners have clearly demonstrated that the wider community should and can have a highly significant role to play in developing this civic asset.                 


    Photo references:

    1. Łódź (Poland) – The Board of the New Centre of Lodz. Construction of Fabryczna Station

    2. Creil Agglomeration (France) – Anticipating HST

    3. The Ulm Stakeholder Forum (Germany)


    [1] Estimates suggest that more than 20% of people using modern station complexes are not travellers

    [2] Intense citizen protest against the Stuttgart 21 mega station project (50,000 people on the street in September 2010) forced a referendum in the Landtag Baden-Wurttemburg in 2011 – critical consequences at national level, in political terms and major impact on budget and timing. 



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