Policy making

Policy context

Baltic Urban Lab the supports the aims of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region horizontal actions “Spatial Planning” and “Sustainable Development”.  The horizontal action  “Spatial Planning” calls for the development and use of a common approach for cross-border cooperation on Land-based Spatial Planning around the Baltic Sea region.

In this respect, the work of VASAB “Visions and strategies around the Baltic Sea 2010” is seen crucial. The VASAB Long Term Perspective for the Territorial Development of the BSR emphasizes importance of improving networking in the field of spatial planning between local authorities and creation of common tools and methods. VASAB sees that the transnational cooperation in spatial planning provides a substantial added value to policy sectors like urban networking.

Particularly regarding the brownfield regeneration, no common legislation for the sustainable use of soil exists on the European level. However, in the EU more than 1,000 km² every year are subject to 'land take' for housing, industry, roads or recreational purposes. The Roadmap to a Resource efficient Europe (2011) has a set a goal of no net land take by 2050. In order to be achieved, this goal has to be recognized also on the local level, for which the reuse and remediation of brownfield land is one of the cornerstones.

The cross-border relevance of the Baltic Urban Lab project

The challenges Central Baltic cities face in revitalizing urban space, are similar across borders. The issues of land ownership and the technical, geological, and financial difficulties of remediating contaminated land as well as questions about responsibility, remain some of the main challenges involved in brownfield redevelopment. In addition, there is a need to better involve citizens and other actors in the development of these areas to address issues of liveability, equality and cultural heritage. And establish public-private partnerships, involving cooperation between municipalities, landowners and developers to secure implementation of brownfield projects.

Yet, common, structured approaches for brownfield redevelopment on national, regional and even local level are missing. Baltic Urban Lab has published a policy brief and a brochure regarding the planning systems and legislation regarding brownfield redevelopment in different Central Baltic countries. Findings from the studies show that integrated national approaches combining environmental soil management with urban development are rare in the Central Baltic region. This may pose a challenge for brownfield redevel­opment in the region, and there is a need for more integrated or holistic approaches to promote cooperation between experts responsible for soil remediation and urban design.

Baltic Urban Lab definition for brownfields

There are no commonly agreed European definitions on what a brownfield is. Baltic Urban Lab has adapted the definition developed by several European brownfield projects, the last version originating from Cabernet Networks work to reflect better today’s challenges.

Baltic Urban Lab defines urban brownfields as sites that:

  • have been affected by the former/existing (often industrial) uses of the site and surrounding land
  •  are derelict, underused and/or could be redeveloped in ways that support local efforts towards sustainable urban development
  • may have contamination problems
  • often include historically valuable areas or architecture
  • should be planned and developed following an integrated approach, based on partnerships between different stakeholders, including: the public sector, developers, land-owners, citizens and other concerned actors. 

Recommendations for national level

Based on these common challenges, the Baltic Urban Lab project has identified recommendations to national actors who wish to promote brownfield redevelopment in their countries. These recommendations call for a more coordinated national policy approach to brownfield development. This could come in the form of national brownfield development guidelines, within the broader perspective of urban development.

Baltic Urban lab recommends:

  •  It can be challenging to identify responsible actors for planning and funding the remediation of contaminated land areas. For this reason, guidance on roles and responsibilities of different actors (e.g. local authorities, landowners) in financing necessary remediation of contaminated land should be provided.
  • National actors should promote and support cooperation between local actors with different responsibilities in urban development. For example, co-operation should be encouraged between departments responsible for mobility, environment, and building to ensure that potential development synergies are implemented.
  • As a basis for national policy-making, countries should conduct coordinated inventories of potential brownfield sites, including assessments of the state of contamination. The inventories can result in priority of development of brownfield areas.
  • Brownfield development should be guided by local and national goals and strategies on economic, ecological and social sustainable development. National funds to accelerate brownfield development and remediation process could be established to help trigger private investments.
  • National guidance should support cities in identifying the cultural values related to the industrial history in brownfield areas, and to plan for a future that connects to local history.
  • National actors should promote and support local actors in developing new forms of cooperation to secure sufficient funding for remediation activities. At the same time, it is important to ensure citizen participation as well as transparency and legitimacy of decision-making when working with urban brownfield development.
  • National actors could function as mediators between the local public sector and landowners of brownfield areas, especially in cases where fragmented ownership structure is a barrier for revitalization

The definition and recommedations are included in Memorandum of Understanding between the project consortium.

Knowledge and lessons learned from the project are to be utilized in the drafted Policy and Practice Recommendations for local, national and macro-regional actors seeking to apply an integrated approach in the revitalization of urban space. Concrete piloting of integrated planning approaches and PPP-partnership models in real life conditions in Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Sweden and analysis of good practices will help to formulate a common approach for urban regeneration projects that will be transferable and beneficial to all Central Baltic cities.