Urban Development

Urban and metropolitan areas are based on agglomerations, which include the built-up area and the commuter belt around a city. A sustainable and inclusive development of the economic potential as well as the well-being of people living there may be developed more efficiently by taking into account the metropolitan area as a whole. Given the growing role of cities in governance this topic is high on the policy agenda of the European Commission.

However, there are major policy issues in the spatial development of cities and metropolitan areas, like urban sprawl, that affect the latter’s ability to meet the goals of sustainable and inclusive growth. Policy makers in cities often have limited capacity to address these challenges, due to the de facto (and sometimes de jure) existence of functional urban areas (FUAs), defining cities and their commuting zones. These FUAs extend beyond formal administrative boundaries, sometimes even across national borders. Therefore, metropolitan areas often suffer from fragmented policy making. The "Spatial dynamics and strategic planning in metropolitan areas" project (SPIMA) develops this further and uses a couple of different case studies (for example Oslo or Lille).

Hence, the metropolitan dimension gives new and challenging aspects to the question of how to address policy issues, since dialogue and commitment to joint policies has to be achieved by the core city and often many neighbouring municipalities as well as directly elected local and regional authorities. City to city cooperation as well as multilevel cooperation are crucial points to be taken into account in this respect. It might be possible to define various action areas of cooperation. The ACTAREA project analyses these cooperations and compares them on an European scale. A central part of the analysis is to find out if there are similar, politically defined areas of territorial cooperation in Europe and if there are comparable approaches in other European countries or at European level.

But those aren't the only ESPON projects concentrating on urban matters:

  • The LOCATE project studies the possibility to implement a low-carbon economy, using various examples of cities as case studies (e.g. Manchester and Copenhagen).
  • On the other hand, another project has a focus on Financial Instruments and territorial cohesion with is highly connected to urban development.
  • Green infrastructure has an important effect for the urban area as well
  • The Youth unemployment project analyses the mobility of people affected and shows that an important part is living in urban areas