The STATUS Project
The STATUS project is tackling the problem of incoherent urban and regional development in South Eastern European and neighbouring countries by jointly developing an approach that can help cities and regions in making integrated and sustainable urban agendas and place based strategies by participatory planning tools.
It aims to enrich the pool of development, regeneration and management tools in urban settlements systems of the SEE program area.
Cities in the XXI century face the challenge of being competitive and maintaining a reasonable state of welfare at the same time. Many cities in SEE area have a significant urban development deficit in terms of integrated strategies, capacity and urban implementation tools.
STATUS aims at reducing the widening development gap of SEE cities in terms of quality of life and capability, compared to West European ones.
STATUS prepares the partner cities to design good strategies and policies in order to pursue more balanced territorial development and ensuring global competitiveness. The scale of urban networks and clusters of cities in the STATUS territorial partnership ranges from the urban/peri-urban (metropolitan areas, systems of urban settlements) to the sub-regional and regional level.
The STATUS project will collaborate in a true transnational setting to assist SEE cities authorities to develop Strategic Territorial/Urban Agendas (ST/UA), as a tool for sustainable and integrated development in line with 21st century standards. It aims, by applying a participatory planning process, to implement, together with local actors, Urban Centers (UCs) as places in where to shape cities strategic visions. This will result in shared local development scenarios. Results, practices and emerging city networks (local and inter-communal) will be archived and promoted in the SEE Web Platform (SEE-WP) which will constitute the memory of implemented plans and policies, as well as the virtual platform through which to develop innovative and smart solutions for the SEE cities of the future. The developed outputs of the project (strategic urban agendas and urban centers) will assist the participating cities in using cohesion funds in a more efficient manner and provide input for future (cohesion funded) projects.
- Problems Addressed
Member states of SEE, mainstreamed, for the first time, in the programming period 2007-2013, the cohesion policy funds in domains connected to urban and regional development (e.g. Bulgaria, Romania).
Other member states (e.g. Slovenia, Check Republic, Hungary) have a longer experience, but outcomes in urban practices are still often doubtful in terms of resilient and sustainable solutions. The next programming period 2014-2020 recognizes the need for looking for more coherence with the place-based or territorial policy concept (F.Barca Report, 2009).
Territorial cohesion policies still have to find the basic key features that will allow them to promote in Eastern Europe a proper integrated territorial approach, as well as designing tools to operationalise a more sustainable and integrated use of structural funds.
Urbanproblems, whether related to environmental degradation or to social exclusion, call for a specific response and for direct involvement of the level of government concerned. Accordingly, an ambitious Urban Agenda should be developed (Vth Report on Economic, Social and territorial Cohesion, 2010).
Finally, a number of neighbour states of the West Balkans and of the Black Sea area are going to enter pre-accession procedures or are presenting their candidature to become EU member states. These latter countries have scarce experience in using EU development funds in the urban domain. The possibility triggered by the SEE initiative (priority axis 4.1) is that of creating a common platform for discussing urban issues and defining tools in order to put into practice the concept of 'Territorial Cohesion' in South East Europe. STATUS is an opportunity to provide tools for a better use of structural funds at urban and city-region scale and avoiding dispersion or low return of investments in social and territorial cohesion.
Many cities, worldwide, are positioning themselves in the new economic and financial orders. Strategic urban management is a key tool for facilitating growth and improvement of living standards and competitiveness. Urban quality, in its different aspects, has become a key factor in attracting and retaining companies and a talented labour force ready to compete on different territorial scales. The SEE area does not currently present a coordinated platform for developing urban strategies for small and medium sized towns.
The occasion given by the SEE Programme (priority 4.1) would be used, through the STATUS proposal, to create this platform, starting with small and medium sized cities and their urban systems. STATUS overall objective is to assist city authorities of the SEE countries in developing Strategic Territorial/Urban Agendas (ST/UA) (depending on the scale of the partners institutional territorial management), as a tool for sustainable and integrated development in line with 21st century standards, and in implementing Urban Centers (UC), as places where to shape, together with active local actors, the planning process that leads to the definition of strategic visions and the design of integrated urban plans: from urban regeneration to urban development.
Finally, generated practices and emerging city networks will be archived and promoted through the SEE Web Platform (SEE-WP) which will constitute the memory of the implemented plans and policies, as well as the virtual platform through which to develop innovative and smart services/solutions for the SEE cities of the future. Specific objectives of STATUS are:
- to familiarize SEE municipalities with integrated urban programming approaches
- to put in place cooperation structures and business opportunities between main stakeholders in small and medium sized cities: promoting operational partnerships among municipalities, investors, knowledge institutes and the third sector
- to create a city-platform for exchanging knowledge on urban and territorial development themes, initial focus being cities and urban systems of SEE (target users)
- to define steps and contents (to launch and to organize the local processes) for designing in each partner city an Urban-Territorial Development Agenda (visions for territorial cohesion) and to create UCs in three pilot cities
We still do not have complete and satisfactory EU studies/reports that assess results connected to the use of 2007-2013 structural funds in urban domain in the SEE states and Neighbour countries, but, it is quite obvious that there are some major problems in the urban areas of these states, generated by the following circumstances:
- Hitches in defining appropriate governance frameworks for managing urban development strategies
- Integrated territorial approaches are often not defined at city scale and are not helped and encouraged at regional administrative level (both functional and elected)
- An extremely centralized approach to solving urban problems
- Uncoordinated investments at regional, inter-regional scale (especially in basic infrastructure)
- A lack of operational instruments for town planning (too old normative an regulatory tools impede transparent urban development transformation and favours corruption)
- Obsolete knowledge about city planning theories and principles among local town planners, especially at municipality level: Low level of urban culture and education in general
- Local, regional and national political agendas too often give little priority to real urban questions (e.g. urban poverty, regeneration of deprived neighbourhoods/proper slums, definition of sound measures for local competitiveness)
- Weak communication between administrations, planners, investors, community
- Weak circulation of the relevant urban /territorial information
These problems are particularly becoming more pressing in medium and small sized cities, where the critical mass of local economy is very low and it is hard to get the benefits of major, predominant and relevant market and innovation flows and networks.
This project proposal is tackling the problem of incoherent urban and regional development by jointly developing an approach that can help cities and regions in making more integrated and sustainable urban agendas and place based strategies by participatory planning tools. In that sense, the project proposal fits perfectly in the new place-based territorial agendas for the next cohesion progamming period (2014-2020) and will prepare the participating cities and regions better for the next programming period. The STATUS project aims to build innnovative pilots in the participating cities and regions that can serve as showcase for other SEE cities and regions. This objective will be accomplished by buidling a SEE cities knowledge platform.
The STATUS methodology is based on three main project steps:
- an inception phase
- a planning process activating period (urban programming)
- a final phase of the delivery of the Strategic Agendas (ST/UA) and creation of the Urban Centers (UCs)
Both of these final activities will be supported by the creation of local Urban Task Forces (UTFs). These basic steps will be accompanied by professional project management, communication and dissemination activities. In this 1st step, different methods of analysis will be pursued in order to achieve the objectives of STATUS:
- desk analysis (consulting reports/reviewing case studies and consolidated literature, analysis of GIS state of art)
- field analysis (interviews with relevant actors and subjects of urban policies, exchange of experience with local planners)
- operational analysis through events that will be organized (international seminars and organisation of conferences, thematic workshops with planners, politicians and stakeholder)
The 2nd step, the urban programming stage, will set up and organize all local players within a local planning process that structures the design of the strategic urban agendas. The urban programming stage is demarked by:
- the organization of workshops in order to identify and discuss major local urban issues;
- the assessment of the achievements of the workshops and definition of planning scenarios;
- the prioritization of selected projects and design of the Urban Strategic Agenda.
The 3rd step, the Urban Centers stage, through the creation of the UCs is characterized by the following activities:
- increasing local awareness about the projects and objectives of the Agenda, so as to extend its local rooting among local communities;
- creating Urban Centers as "factories for ideas", places for coherent urban development;
- consolidating Urban task forces, within the Urban Centers, looking for potential investors (local/global) and funding possibilities for realizing and generating projects.
In the the intermediate and final phase of the planning processes, a web platform (SEE-WP) will be produced in order to permit even cross-cutting constructive interferences among partner cities distant processes, that can enrich with external creative motivating forces the local pathway to the design of effective and efficient urban tools.
Target groups of STATUS are:
- the municipalities (focus on technical and strategic bodies/civil servants taking care of urban/inter-communal management/strategic development);
- planners (focus town and regional planners) working as practitioners both in public and private realm;
- politicians and decision makers;
- local citizens associations responsible for democratic stakeholding of choices taken for urban strategic development;
- investors interested in urban regeneration and development;
- regional and central public institutions (regions, ministries);
- researchers in town and regional development;
- chambers of commerce, craft and trade and other territorial actors pro-active at urban and urban and territorial scale.
Target groups are actively involved in the planning processes that shape the ST/UA and in preparing the implementation of the UCs. Moreover they will be involved in the design of the SEE-WP, for which they will be requested to provide content as well as different kinds of sponsorship.
As they are directly involved, they have access to all public information (reports, blueprints, DBs) generated in achieving primary and secondary project deliverables, being constantly involved in the creation of the outputs of the project and in their dissemination and communication.