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Communicating urban growth and green: assessment of planning concepts and policy instruments for sustainable development of the urban landscape


Problems to be solved
Most cities in Europe are facing the challenge to make urban green an integral part of urban growth. Steering towards a balance between urban expansion and the quality of green areas requires good governance and is sometimes highly problematic. If growth takes the form of expansion in the urban fringe, there is increased pressure of sub-urbanisation, urban sprawl and traffic on surrounding greenbelts. If there is growth in the existing city, there is the pressure of intensive use, building activities, fragmentation by roads, pollution and noise imposed on green areas and other open spaces in existing cities. In some of these open spaces, the so-called 'brownfields', pollution inherited from past industrial uses may pose difficulties to conversion for either housing or green functions. As a result there is increased pressure on the 'greenfields' in the urban fringe. In many cases, green areas become small and scattered, polluted and disturbed. Traditionally, urban growth and green are seen as competitive or even mutually exclusive. Yet cities have sometimes found ways to turn 'green fingers' or 'greenways' into the backbones of urban development. Policies and projects have been launched aiming at both sustainable economic and ecological development. The GREENSCOM project focuses on learning from success and failure of local government experiences in this context.
Scientific objectives and approach:
Abundant technical knowledge is available on green structures and urban open spaces, but the 'process-knowledge' of communication strategies and policy instruments often remains under explored. Learning about these aspects of governance is the central research objective of GREENSCOM. The project consists of a series of working packages that will each have a clearly circumscribed output. The outcome of the project as a whole is a toolkit. The toolkit consists of communication strategies and policy instruments recommended under specified conditions. The tools are neither 'blueprints'-nor recipes, but methods and approaches that can stimulate a deliberate process of learning by doing at the local level. The tools will be useful to those involved in governing urban growth and green at both the strategic and operational levels. The research approach leads to a project in three phases. First, relevant questions and hypotheses regarding communication and policy instruments are formulated in interaction with the cities involved. Then, a framework will be developed that allows for comparative study of cases. In the second phase, this framework is used for case studies in five European countries. The third phase is an assessment of the cases and leads to the toolkit. In all phases researchers closely work together with urban practitioners.
Expected impacts
At the strategic level, the toolkit facilitates 'good governance' of green structures by offering strategies to strengthen the position of green areas in conflicts with urban growth. A special focus is on strategic options for multifunctional combinations, linking green and other functions, like water storage, cycle tracks, real estate values, and urban climate. At the operational level, the research project generates a better understanding of local and generic conditions in which particular policy instruments can be successfully applied. Recommendations are made for such policy instruments as public-private partnerships, incentives and compensation practices. As communication is the central theme, communication strategies and decision-making procedures are an important field for recommendations, both at strategic and operational level. Understanding the processes and development of better tools to improve the quality of decisions on growth and green. This contributes to wider objectives of sustainable urban development and quality of life in urban areas.

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts


Droevendaalsesteeg 3A
6700 AA Wageningen

Participants (4)

Sven Hultins Gata 6
412 96 Göteborg
Dr. Neergaards Vej 15
2970 Hoersholm
Godefroy Cavaignac 28
75011 Paris
Rakentajanaukio 1 X
02150 Espoo