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Active Development Land Policy for the City and Surrounding Areas - from Municipal to Regional Land Management (Abstract)

Abstract

Conference organised by the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning, Bonn, and the German Institute of Urban Affairs, Berlin

In many respects the situation on the markets for building land and real property in Germany vary a lot. Prosperous regions present a different picture than economically stagnating areas, the urban periphery than core cities, "good" urban neighbourhoods than "weak" ones. All observers agree that the decisive actors in development land markets are the municipalities, since their planning jurisdiction gives them a monopoly in providing land for development. But here, too, the expectations directed at municipalities differ. The Sustainability Council set up by the Federal Government demands a marked reduction in the specification of land for development, because it sees this as one of the most serious environmental problems in Germany; industry, in contrast, demands that more land be made available in order to lower land prices. However, everyone agrees that settlement land and the vehicular and pedestrian infrastructure in the Federal Republic has been expanding by a average 120 hectares per day and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. This growth is taking place on the periphery of conurbations, not in the core.

In view of the unclear situation on the development land and real property markets, the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning (BBR) and the German Institute of Urban Affairs (Difu) staged a conference entitled "Active Development Land Policy for the City and Surrounding Areas - from Municipal to Regional Land Management". After assessing the current situation, the conference focused primarily on municipal options for precautionary building land policy, especially in coordination between the core city and peripheral municipalities. The principal issue was whether and how families can be enabled to build at a reasonable price and in keeping with market needs in inner-city areas instead of contributing to suburbanisation by moving out into surrounding areas. Reports on successful models from the practical context were therefore the main focus of the conference.

In his opening address, Dr. Gatzweiler from the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning pointed out that the situation with regard to the supply of land for development has eased in the overwhelming majority of cities. To a considerable extent, building land has mainly been made available on the basis of legally binding land-use plans. Municipalities have therefore met their obligation to supply housing land principally by zoning new land for development. Gap-stopping and recycling derelict sites have played a less important role.

The adoption of general land policy decisions provides municipalities with an important instrument for controlling the provision of land for development. Like cooperation among neighbouring municipalities, they are not as widespread in Germany as could be desired. A nationwide representative survey carried out in 1999 by the Research Group City and Village, Prof. Dr. Rudolf Schäfer GmbH, revealed that only 17 per cent of municipalities have formulated such land policy decisions. Positive examples of the possible impact of such a policy decision were impressively presented by the head of the building department from Bocholt.

Especially important in reducing the zoning of new land for development is the use of derelict sites through so-called recycling. According to a study by the German Institute of Urban Affairs over 50 per cent of the larger municipalities approached by the Institute expected this to increase land resources in their territory considerably. But in order to make proper use of such land, various administrative departments need to coordinate their procedures in the fields of land management and urban development planning, business promotion, marketing, financing, and process management. Apart from municipal policy decisions, instrumental factors are the integration of derelict site recycling in an overall urban planning concept and the development of a land management concept that takes particular account of derelict land. The positive effects of such a procedure were illustrated by examples from Speyer and Halle.

Very important in solving the development land problem is a regional orientation rather than efforts at optimisation for a single city. Examples from Bonn and Hannover showed impressively how beneficial regional cooperation can be.

The conference made it clear that development land policy is to be seen and assessed differently from region to region, and that this is indeed the case. The necessary planning instruments to control development land are available, but they must be coordinated at the regional level and consistently applied if they are to be effective. The question remains whether the voluntary nature of cooperation can be maintained in all cases. Conflicts of interest can to some extent not be overcome by such a procedure.

It remains to be seen what conclusions the Commission for the Amendment of the Federal Building Code (BauGB) will reach, which the Ministry of Transport, Building and Housing set up in late 2001, and which is to present its results in summer 2002. It is to be hoped that the planned amendment of urban planning law will focus not only on simplification and acceleration but also on cooperation and on overcoming competition, as well as on thinking in regional dimensions. Without such changes in planning and regional planning law structures, the demand for a sparing use of development land underlying the Federal Building Code will be difficult to satisfy.

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