Preparation and implementation of a pilot action for the conservation, improvement and economic promotion of Barcelona suburban agricultural area.

LIFE96 ENV/E/000264

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Enric LLARCH I POYO
Tel: +34 3 402 25 24
Fax: +34 3 402 25 23

Project description:


The Baix Llobregat district is situated in the heart of the Barcelona metropolitan area. To the south of Baix Llobregat, in the inner metropolitan fringe around Barcelona, lie the flood plains of the delta and the lower stretches of the River Llobregat. This traditionally rich farmland stretches across 14 boroughs with a combined population of 730 000, out of the total population of over 4 million for the city. In this region, farmland, the river and natural or semi-natural sites exist side-by-side with urban sprawl, and with all the concomitant population pressure and environmental impact. Crops are grown on approximately 3 500 ha, 2 700 of which were designated as farmland in the 1976 general metropolitan development plan. The principal crops are fruit and vegetables. The eastern delta is a major industrial area, which also contains residential areas and service industries. Part of the port of Barcelona is located along the coastal strip. The only open areas are small marginal plots temporarily given over to farming. The River Llobregat and its banks are under heavy pressure from the roads running alongside them. Riverside vegetation has virtually disappeared and the artificial and generally degraded nature of the banks prevents public use of them as a natural habitat. Less than 50 % of the delta is covered by farmland and natural habitats. In the lower valley, farmland and rivers occupy approximately 70 % of the land, alongside urban development, industry and infrastructure. Agriculture in this region is semi-urban, influenced greatly by the impact of the urban environment. These influences include: the breaking-up of farmland into smaller plots; penetration by marginal activities unconnected with agriculture; an increase in land prices fuelled by speculation; pollution of air, water and soil; theft, destruction or deterioration of agricultural infrastructure; difficulty in accessing farming areas; constant expropriations for infrastructure projects or services, with the consequent break-up of holdings, etc.


The purpose of the project was to determine the characteristics of a 3000 hectare Agricultural Park to be developed in the delta and lower valley of the Llobregat River, for the conservation, improvement and development of the outer-suburban agricultural and natural areas of the Barcelona Metropolitan Region. This was to become a sustainable model for the development of a zone which would guarantee the conservation of its natural assets as well as facilitating future development. The central section of the Barcelona metropolitan region is environmentally complex. It has several protected natural areas, alluvial farmland and a seafront that is subject to heavy social usage. These semi-natural environments must coexist alongside a large, diffuse built-up area. The ensuing human pressure can be seen in the deterioration of its environmental resources and value. The objective of the proposed Llobregat Agricultural Park was to resolve the specific problems of a peri-urban agricultural area by combining territorial planning (town planning measures) with a policy aimed at promoting the areas agricultural economy. The inclusion of different sectoral measures in a single project was a methodological innovation for this peri-urban area, which is urdergoing an agricultural and environmental crisis.


The first step was to publicise the objectives of the programme amongst the various farming associations and cooperatives in the region, the 14 local councils responsible for the area and the regional government's departments of agriculture, public works and town and country planning. The project initially met with reticence on the part of farmers, but this was overcome as the work advanced: today, the agricultural park has signed cooperation agreements with 90 % of the region's cooperatives. 12 sectoral studies and a survey of the farming sector were conducted to identify priority areas for action and produce a management and development plan and a special urban development plan. Throughout the project's implementation, demonstration and pilot projects were conducted. Grants were also awarded, notably to support the recovery of traditional farming practices, to promote integrated tomato growing, to contribute to the costs of producing crates bearing the logos of the LIFE programme and of the agricultural park, to create and promote the Producto fresco del Parque Agrario del Baix Llobregat (Fresh produce of the Baix Llobregat Agricultural Park) mark, and to promote and implement a rural watch plan to improve the security of farmers and crops in the area. The conclusions of the diagnosis (studies and surveys) and the experience gained from the pilot projects in the first phase formed the basis for the two most important documents in the project: the management and development plan and the special urban development plan. The management and development plan set the priorities for action in the agricultural sector, in terms both of agricultural infrastructure and of sectoral projects. The special urban development plan set out the broad lines of urban development to consolidate or reform the infrastructure vital for developing agriculture (roads, water mains, etc.). The agricultural park has been the key, decisive factor in finding a way out of the severe crisis afflicting semi-urban agriculture in the Baix Llobregat region. Disenchantment had crept into the industry in recent years as it faced a host of different problems and its strength to resolve them was sapped by the scale and diversity of the difficulties. The excellent economic rents which this farmland could command were not being fully realised due to competition from other land further away and with lower production costs. At the same time, heavy pressure from urban development was stifling any future prospects. With aid from the LIFE programme, the agricultural park has restored the confidence of the vast majority of farmers and generated the impetus to deliver quality produce at a low environmental cost. New cooperatives and the arrival of young farmers in the industry are sure signs of the programme's success. In addition to the benefits to the farming community, society at large has recovered a green belt which was in danger of disappearing. This will be preserved and will continue to fulfil its environmental functions for as long as required.


Environmental issues addressed:


Industry-Production - Agriculture - Forestry
Biodiversity issues - Urban biodiversity


Agriculture‚  periurban space‚  urban planning‚  nature conservation

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator PROELSA
Type of organisation Local authority
Description As the local authority, the Diputación de Barcelona is responsible for landuse planning in the city of Barcelona. PROMOCIO ECONOMICA LOCAL (PROELSA) is a risk capital company with responsability for local development.


Project reference LIFE96 ENV/E/000264
Duration 01-SEP-1996 to 01-DEC -1999
Total budget 923,861.49 €
EU contribution 346,903.83 €
Project location Cataluña(España)


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