Peer Review method for face-to-face planning of brownfields

Description of the practice: 

Brownfield regeneration deals with similar planning challenges in different cities and countries. The method of "One-day peer-workshop with a site visit" was developed in the Baltic Urban Lab project to offer an intensive and informal face-to-face forum for information and experience exchange for peers and to allow them to learn from similar planning cases that they are dealing with themselves. The presented method is the end result of four workshops that were implemented with urban planners and developers of brownfield areas on local level in Norrköping, Riga, Tallinn and Turku in the period of 2017-2018.


The aim of the method was to offer an opportunity for face-to-face informal and intensive exchange of information and experience with peers who are dealing with similar planning issues. 


The method was originally targeted to urban planners and developers who come from different cities and countries. Participants are gathered together for one day to get to know with one acute, concrete and focused local planning challenge, discuss and change information about similar planning cases, and give ideas to the owner of the planning challenge and how to proceed with it. The day is facilitated and includes a site visit related to the planning challenge. As a result, the workshop offers valuable knowledge to the host city for seeing the challenge in a new way and creating solutions, and for participating cities opportunities to reflect their practices in their own cities. The workshop enables informal and cooperative development besides the formal planning process in the cities. The planning challenge is formulated by the host city in cooperation with the facilitators of the workshop in advance, and communicated to the coming participants of the workshop with pre-tasks (short case presentations) in good time.  

The peer-workshop day is divided into two functional parts: 

  • The morning part is dedicated to the host city that presents the planning challenge and its background, provides more information about it for example with the help of local expert presentations, and leads to the guided site visit at the end of the morning session. 
  • The afternoon part starts by the presentations of the participating cities. They are providing examples of similar planning challenges in their cities or elsewhere. It is followed by a moderated small group discussion with the help of pre-formulated key questions. Participants will discuss about different themes and propose ideas for further development to the host city. 

After the workshop, the implementation of the workshop is analysed and results delievered by the facilitators. As the workshop is tailored, and the planning challenge and focus are case-specific, also the solutions are specific. A compilation result of the planning process of the workshop and workshop's result were provided to the host city, and key recommendations were formulated. They were not meant for a wider audience and thus not openly published. 

Work stages and tasks

1. Preparation & recruiting participants  - 4-8 weeks:

The Host City:

  • decide and confirm the time and date, place and catering for the workshop (it is beneficial to have the venue close to the site in question) 
  • discussion about the planning case and the workshop day locally 
  • organisation of the morning session and of the guided site visit
  • recruitment of needed external experts and local representatives for the workshop
  • contact person 


  • making the basic structure and draft agenda for the workshop day
  • planning the sub-topics and methods for the afternoon session in small group discussions
  • registration of participants and communication about the practicalities during the day 

Peer City: 

  • making short case-presentations from their city or elsewhere about similar planning cases that the workshop will handle (in Baltic Urban Lab, one peer cities got more time and was "the reviewer" with more focused input than the rest of the participating cities
2. Workshop day with the site visit - 1 day 

Morning part (host city in respose of the content and running of programme):

  • host city presents their topic and offers more information for example with a display of different expert presentations
  • guided site visit to the planning case site (by foot)

Afternoon part (facilitator in response of the content and running of the programme): 

  • other cities present similar cases from their cities or elsewhere
  • moderated small group discussions about the topic and short summations 
3. Analysis & report (the material is primarily mean for the host city, not wider audience and not openly published, Faciliator)
  • doing material management and content analysis 
  • making short summation of the afternoon small group discussions, full report and key recommendations. 




  • In cross-border peering, key material should be available and/or presented in English (or in other common language)
  • Timing is challenging - recruiting participants for certain planning challenges can be time consuming as well as the preparatory work 
  • Tendency to fill in morning agendas too tightly with presentations - best to try and keep that part loose and avoid fitting too many presentations into one session
  • Sometimes participants can be too like-minded, invite relevant reference group representatives to give a more critical perspective 
  • Site visit planning and guidance is important - enough time should be allocated, good reference maps provided with a guide
  • Small group discussions benefit from clear sub-questions and assignments