Joint management and ecological development of cross-frontier nature areas

RegioStars 2012 FinalistIn the Hainaut Cross-Border Nature Park (PNTH) which straddles the border between Wallonia in Belgium and the Nord-Pas de Calais region of France a cross-border management system has been set up to protect the area and promote its socio-economic development.

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The PNTH is located in between a number of major urban hubs such as Lille, Tournai, Mons and Valenciennes/Douai. It encompasses two nature parks either side of an international border and major waterway. On the French side is the Regional Nature Park ‘Scarpe-Escaut’ (PNRSE) and on the Belgian side the Nature Park of the Escaut Plains (PNPE). The zone covers some 70 000 hectares and encompasses one hundred or so towns and villages with a population of some 250 000.

This zone, rich in the natural, landscape, built and cultural heritage on either side of the Escaut valley, faces a number of environmental challenges and the PNTH project has set out to bring together all stakeholders in the region to better understand, protect, develop and manage the region.

Joint management programme to manage key issues

Over the period 2007-2011 a joint management programme has been implemented in this cross-border area which has sought to manage issues ranging from land planning, institutional organisation and the mobilisation of technical teams, to relations with elected politicians and local stakeholders.

The principal challenges facing the PNTH revolve around the preservation of the water resources, the conservation of a functional ecological network and the development of environmentally-friendly farming practices. They also have to take into account the maintenance of a rural socio-economic fabric, preserve and improve the living environment and landscape, as well as maintain the rural nature of the region.

Action Plan to manage knowledge about the natural heritage

Through the 2007-2011 Action Plan a framework has been put in place to manage knowledge about the natural heritage, compile inventories of species at risk and develop information databases. An inventory of the wetlands has been undertaken and an integrated management plan has been developed for the cross-border waterway, the Elnon.

To gain a better understanding of the way these landscapes are changing a Cross-border Landscape Observatory has been created whose website ( enables local residents to become involved by ‘sponsoring’ a landscape.

The 2007-2011 action programme focused on five fields of action:

  • Defining the primary areas of concern and their long-term objectives;
  • Structuring the governance and management of the PNTH nature park;
  • Assembling a cross-border technical team;
  • Enhancing ecological awareness in the region;
  • Jointly implementing and managing a series of themed projects.

Some 85 % of the project’s attainment indicators were accomplished one year before the project’s end including 700 actions in the area of the joint management of natural resources.

The two nature parks, PNPE and PNRSE, have signed a formal partnership agreement. The ‘Cross-border Charter of the PNR Scarpe-Escaut’ will run for 12 years and is also an important element in ensuring the continuity of the partnership.

Certification as part of the ‘Transboundary Parks’ network of the European Federation of Parks (EUROPARC) will enable in the building of a network of sustainable cross-border parks across Europe.

Total and EU funding

The project “Parc naturel transfrontalier du Hainaut (PNTH)” has a total eligible budget of EUR 4 599 300 with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 2 229 650 for the 2007 to 2013 programming period.

Draft date