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The Compact City of the North – functions, challenges and planning strategies

In this report, the characteristics and consequences of the compact city ideal in Nordic cities, and more specifically in their city centres, are investigated. The research was done in the form of a series of small case studies of city centre development, and they are presented thematically. They focus on public spaces and the threat from external shopping, densification as a planning strategy, new housing as a planning tool, and finally governance and actor collaboration. The Nordic region is dominated by small and medium sized cities, and we chose the following cities for our investigation of city centre challenges and planning strategies: Bodø (Norway), Kokkola (Finland), Mariehamn (Åland), Mosfellsbær (Iceland), Sorø (Denmark) and Västervik (Sweden). The cities were investigated through planning and policy documents, interviews and observations, and the work was guided by the following questions: What does “the compact city” mean in the investigated cities – and how is it operationalized? What are the main planning problems related to city centres, and what are the visions for the future in relation to these? What can we learn from different ways of approaching city centre development across the different Nordic countries? Two strong themes related to development in city centres, and to the commonly held view that the city core needs to be strengthened, regenerated or recreated, are competition from external shopping centres, and urban sprawl. These themes point to the challenges to the central city as the one and only centre. The examples from the Nordic region show that the competition from external shopping is very real, and that planning regulations do not always have the desired effect on the competition. This has led to a variety of responses – new central housing, new attractive spaces, new types of plans and new governance collaborations. In addition to their different…

Global goals for local priorities: The 2030 Agenda at local level

The aim of this report is to provide local authorities with ideas on how to implement the 2030 Agenda and to inform experts and policy makers at national and regional levels on how to support the municipalities in their work. On 25 September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Municipalities are key when it comes to their implementation, since they are closest to the people, local businesses and civil society organisations. This report identifies 27 Nordic local authorities that are “first movers” in working with the 2030 Agenda and describes their priorities and activities. It also highlights challenges and success factors in working with the SDGs. The 27 first movers use the SDGs to inspire or guide new environmental policies, quality of life plans, the development of a new suburb, the design of local strategies, the merger of municipalities and many other purposes. They differ in their approaches, priorities, and their plans to involve the local population, businesses, civil society organisations and other partners in the work with the SDGs. Despite these differences, the first movers share common expectations towards national and Nordic authorities. They recommend a clearer communication of national priorities and activities within the 2030 Agenda, guidance on how to work with the 17 SDGs, and assistance in monitoring progress. Addressing these issues would facilitate local authority efforts to reach the SDGs.

Planning for agglomeration economies in a polycentric region

Envisioning an efficient metropolitan core area in Flanders. To some degree, metropolitan regions owe their existence to the ability to valorize agglomeration economies. The general perception is that agglomeration economies increase with city size, which is why economists tend to propagate urbanization, in this case in the form of metropolization. Contrarily, spatial planners traditionally emphasize the negative consequences of urban growth in terms of liveability, environmental quality, and congestion. Polycentric development models have been proposed as a specific form of metropolization that allow for both agglomeration economies and higher levels of liveability and sustainability. This paper addresses the challenge of how such polycentric development can be achieved in planning practice. We introduce ‘agglomeration potential maps’ that visualize potential locations in a polycentric metropolitan area where positive agglomeration externalities can be optimized. These maps are utilized in the process of developing a new spatial vision for Flanders’ polycentric ‘metropolitan core area’, commonly known as the Flemish Diamond. The spatial vision aspires to determine where predicted future population growth in the metropolitan core area could best be located, while both optimizing positive agglomeration externalities and maintaining its small-scale morphological character. Based on a literature review of optimum urban-size thresholds and our agglomeration potential maps, we document how such maps contributed to developing this spatial vision for the Flemish metropolitan core area.