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Panorama Inforegio

The quarterly magazine of the actors of regional development

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Events 12 May 2000

Drawing the conclusions from the TERRA programme
Fresh ideas on spatial planning

"Terra has shown the value of, and need for, strong local participation at all levels of a project on sustainable spatial planning. This involvement makes regional development policy both tangible and concrete."

Frank O'Gallachoir, SRUNA project director at the Dublin regional authority.

Between 1997 and 2000 SRUNA brought together Irish and Swedish partners with a view to creating new ways of preserving and developing their respective regions. To that end, local actors in Dublin and in the Swedish region of Skåne made comparative studies, prepared databases and used the latest techniques for gathering and processing geographical data.

The SRUNA project was undertaken within the framework of the Terra pilot programme, developed by the European Commission and co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund. Terra gives local and regional actors the opportunity to design and test new approaches to sustainable spatial planning. It therefore involves elaborating policies which take account of the environment, economic development, local competitiveness and future generations. This laboratory also makes it possible to assess the appropriateness of the ideas put forward in the ESDP, the European Spatial Development Perspective, a document which contains the policy objectives and options for managing the Community's territory, approved by the Council of Ministers in Potsdam in May 1999.

Launched three years ago, Terra had an ERDF budget of EUR 40 million, making it possible to fund 15 projects in 11 countries of the Union. They concerned primarily coastal areas, river basins, areas at risk from erosion and rural areas located in the Objective 1 regions. These measures mobilised 63 local partners who marked the end of the programme with a meeting in Brussels on 12 May 2000 to draw lessons from their shared experience.

Vertical and horizontal partnership

One of the main lessons drawn from these three years is undoubtedly the importance of involving the social and economic players.

As Frank O' Gallachoir says:

"In some cases Terra established a genuine contract between the administrators and local people so that a common vision of local and regional planning could be produced on an agreed basis".

What impact has the involvement of local people had on the regional and national political leaders?

"It is interesting to note that working from the bottom up sometimes results in a reversal of the traditional decision-making processes. The decision no longer has to come from the top down to be valid. When local people become actively involved, the politicians follow their lead, take decisions accordingly and work to obtain financing."

Does an experiment like Terra strengthen cooperation between the inhabitants of different regions or are the geographical and linguistic barriers too high?

"Borders or languages are not necessarily the hardest barriers to overcome. Two neighbouring regions can have appreciably divergent needs at times. When regional planning is seen in more global terms, collaboration certainly encourages the search for consensus, thus making it possible to avoid certain conflicts."

Competitiveness and cohesion

Sustainable spatial planning is not incompatible with regional competitiveness; it is in fact a necessary condition for it. Javier Elizalde of the Castilla y Léon region directed the Duero/Douro project which introduced common management of the river from northern Portugal to the centre of Spain. The Douro, instead of separating the two countries, has brought them together. The Spanish and Portuguese partners have managed to dovetail cooperation on transport and on urban, cultural and natural assets, particularly with a view to improving the tourist potential of the regions along the river.

As Javier Elizalde says:

"Regional competitiveness also depends on integrated regional planning where cities strengthen their links with the countryside so that both can draw on their respective strengths. Open access to infrastructure and to knowledge is also essential to the development of rural and disadvantaged areas."

The future of Terra

Three years of trials indicate that the involvement of local actors still needs to be studied in greater detail and that a lack of expertise can sometimes slow down the progress of the projects. In addition, establishing networks and genuine partnerships requires substantial financial resources and a relatively long preparation period. Terra has fulfilled its role of test-bed, enabling new ideas to emerge and ways of thinking to develop. The programme has also encouraged improved interregional collaboration and has proved the need for coherent spatial development. These lessons will be of use to promoters of Interreg III and Urban II projects, since these two initiatives (as well as the Objectives 1 and 2 programmes) will draw on the lessons of Terra in the 2000-06 period.

The Terra report analysing the three years of this innovative measure is available on the Inforegio website Inforegio and from DG REGIO's Information Centre

Fax: +32 2 296 60 03


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