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Landscape Planning at the Local Level in Europe. The cases of France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the Region of Wallonia, in Belgium

The local scale increasingly perceives the landscape as a driving force for its development, as well as a means to increase the identity and the quality of life of its inhabitants. This growing interest has compelled the Landscape Observatory, with the cooperation of the Ministry of Tourism and the Environment of the Andorran Government, to undertake an investigation in order to find out more in detail about the main tools and experiences in landscape planning in the local area that exist in Europe and analyse their links with local planning. The work comprises various initiatives that have been created in recent months, such as the international seminar 'Rediscovering the Landscape of the Local World' and the 'Landscape and the Local World' website, among other.

The creation of this document has coincided with an important moment for territorial and landscape policies in both Catalonia and Andorra. On the one hand, the Department of the Territory and Sustainability of the Catalan Government is in the process of drafting a new law on territory, urban planning, architecture and landscape. Meanwhile, the Andorran Government is carrying out those priority actions established in the national landscape strategy, which were approved in February 2012. The document therefore aims to contribute to the debate on how the local world can deal with landscape, using the exploration of the European experiences in Germany, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the Belgian region of Wallonia as a starting point. The questions we seek to answer here are : what tools exist in Europe to integrate the landscape at a local level? How are these tools linked to local planning (and not solely urban planning)? How effective are they? Is their application undertaken only with respect to territorial policies or does it have a more systematic and general focus? What is the role of civil society? How are they implemented within planning systems and in distinct landscape policies?

The document has seven chapters, which introduce the institutional and regulatory framework in which the landscape policies of the six countries selected are based, placing emphasis on the norms and instruments used for landscape management and organisation at a local level, these policies are presented and described with examples of applied cases, the main tools used and the existing experiences of landscape planning at a local level in the countries analysed. Finally, a series of observations and reflections are given with respect to local landscape planning in Europe, which do not seek to act as a magic spell to incorporate landscape into the local world, but rather to act as a series of guidelines that may contribute to the construction of new, more efficient models.

La planificaciˇ del paisatge en l'Ómbit local a Europa

La planificaciˇ del paisatge en l'Ómbit local a Europa. Els casos d'Alemanya, Franša, Pa´sos Baixos, Regne Unit, Su´ssa i la regiˇ de Val˛nia, a BŔlgica (11 Mb) (only available in Catalan)

Some of the main ideas are given below:

From the European Framework to Local Action

Without the backing of the European Landscape Convention, many of the political, legislative, investigative, professional and educational initiatives with respect to landscape that have been undertaken in Europe in the last few years would be incomprehensible. A large number of the challenges that face Europe in terms of landscape (identity, individuality, competitiveness, interaction, creativity, local development, entrepreneurship and research) are being tackled - and everything indicates that they will do even more in the future - through the implementation of local policies.

Growing Interest in Landscape from the Local Scale

The fact that landscape represents a direct experience of the everyday life of people does a great deal to explain the growing interest of the local world with respect to the landscape. Some local institutions (councils, local and county governments, etc.) view the landscape as a possible driving force for their development, a local attraction and a way to raise levels of self-esteem, identity and the public's quality of life. These are precisely the main bases on which local landscape policies are based in the six countries analysed. On the other hand, many municipalities have realised that in the current context of globalisation, the quality of the landscape may become a competitive factor in terms of individuality and of enhancing their primary characteristics.

Landscape Planning at a Local Level begins at a National Level

The most successful landscape policies in Europe are those with strategies at all levels of administration, from national to local levels and which are clearly linked, so providing uniformity to the system as a whole. These are policies that are based on national landscape strategies, which are implemented in planning instruments on different levels and which culminate in definitive measures and projects in municipalities or neighbourhoods.

The Netherlands and Switzerland use national landscape strategies that mark the governmental road map with respect to landscape, the link between the ministries involved and with other authorities, from a national to a local level, in addition to the aims and means to fulfil it. Andorra approved its strategy in 2010. Germany has a structured multi-level system in landscape plans at all levels- land , region and municipality-, such that any local plan is determined by superior level landscape plans. Something similar occurs in France between the Territorial Coherence Scheme, which is of a regional level and the Local Urban Planning Plan, of a municipal scale.

Moving from the Territorial to the Urban Scale

Landscape policies are often centred in a territorial area and do not reach the municipal level. In Catalonia, for example, the effort of recent years was placed above all else in the creation of landscape catalogues and in the introduction of landscape objectives in territorial planning through landscape directives. Although this step already has implications for urban Although this step has implications for urban authorities, in the Catalan landscape regulations, for example, the local level has not been sufficiently considered, nor is landscape developed enough to meet the demands of the Law of Urban Planning.

The Netherlands possesses tools for urban regulation (regulations on aesthetic quality and plans for landscape quality) that affect well-defined urban details (volumes, disposition, texture, colour, the organisation of specific factors in landscape structure, etc). On the other hand, tools such as the Green and Blue Network and the Perimeter for the Protection and Valorisation of Suburban Agricultural Areas of France, or the British Green Infrastructure are especially useful in the organisation of the landscape through urban planning and have become true tools of landscape creation and of the re-naturalisation of the cities.

Landscape Units as an Area for Planning

Landscape units have become a marvellous base for linking landscape planning decisions with urban planning in order to formulate local landscape strategies, develop determined projects or to provide integration guidelines on undevelopable land. Firstly because they define territory in accord with a logic applicable to the landscape and not to administration. Secondly, supramunicipal processes allow synergies to be found and resources and efforts to be coordinated. The majority of the instruments analysed appear to function better when applied in a supramunicipal form - as with Swiss landscape development plans, the quality plans of the Netherlands, the French landscape charters and landscape plans and the Wallonian landscape programmes. Landscape units must therefore be seen as functional areas of reference that allow a transition from generalisation to definition and as basic territorial components where the tools of organisation and management are to be applied.

Beyond Regulation: the Force of Recommendations and Good Practices

Another useful way of affecting local planning is that of manuals or documents of good practices to improve the quality of the landscape, these documents are aimed at the authorities, the promoters of projects and/or the public. These recommendations may influence local urban planning, while also providing highly useful criteria and guidance for building, facility and infrastructure authorisation process. These resources have a high potential in terms of raising awareness and in generating a landscape culture in both institutions and promoters .

Noteworthy are the detailed and well-defined recommendation guides that are used in Wallonia so that constructions adapt to them and strengthen the character and the quality of a location, not to mention those guides created as part of the charters (agreements) for French regional natural parks, which deal with questions such as maintaining quality at the entrance to towns, as well as architectural characteristics, etc.

Linking Landscape and Urban Planning is not enough: Articulation with Local Political Sectors

Territorial and urban planning methods are not the only way to improve and enhance the landscape as determined by the European Landscape Convention. Agricultural or tourism policies, for example, have an enormous influence on the landscape and are often influenced by it. A modern landscape policy at a local level must be interactive, it must involve and raise the awareness of all technicians in all areas of local administrations and strengthen in this manner, the essential role of sector strategies involved in the place or those where landscape may involve a future opportunity (economy, culture, education, innovation, etc.).The landscape strategies used in the Netherlands are good examples of tools based on interaction and agreements between actors in the territory (such as landscape charters and the charters of French regional natural parks).

Exemplary Projects

A modern policy at a local level also has to be proactive; it must establish well-designed projects of organisation and intervention in territorial and collective landscapes that go beyond the cosmetic, ornamental or merely formal in character and which enhance the quality, the character and the vitality of these places, from both a physical and an environmental, economic and social viewpoint. Those projects undertaken by partners for the landscape, which are financed by Britain's national lottery are a good example of this, as they seek to promote local, sustainable development based on the character and the identity of the landscape of an area. These projects may also have an enormous catalysing and multiplying effect for other similar landscapes that lack responses.

The importance of dealing with Open Space

The management and organisation of undevelopable land are complex issues. The landscape transforms it from a dispersed accumulation of artefacts of all kinds, which on their own do not create a significant transformation, but together, place its character at risk. In the Netherlands, landscape quality plans have defined very clear, detailed criteria for new constructions, rehabilitation projects and/or new developments. In a highly similar line, the guidelines for organisation and programming linked to French local urban planning plans establish guidelines that are almost projective on how to integrate new urban developments and how to deal with the limits between classes of land. Other tools include the Green and Blue Network and the Perimeter for the Protection and Valorisation of Suburban Agricultural Areas of France, or the British Green Infrastructure. Serious emphasis must be placed on this question, taking into account the landscape unit (the character of an area) and the fact that if the interventions are well made, they should provide new values instead of damaging those existing.

Tools of Landscape Planning and Management based on Public Involvement and Agreements

The role of the public is highly relevant in the development of the majority of the landscape planning and management tools analysed. The participation of civil society and of actors may occur in various manners; through consultation in different phases of the process of creation and approval, by involvement as another actor in the territory and by taking on responsibilities for the implementation of measures and the application of the established criteria, or even by being the promoter and implementer of the initiative, together with other actors in the territory. Tools of a voluntary nature proliferate, these are promoted both by authorities and civil society or local actors, and are based on conciliation, on creating consensus, in agreements and in actions and where the actors, either individually or as a group, take responsibility in society to work in order to attain those commitments made, so attaining a greater level of involvement, a factor which facilitates the success of the initiative .

The Clear Definition of Responsibilities

Initiatives often arise with good intentions and a high level of technical diagnosis, as well as with a definition of objectives and proposals, but where no definition is provided on the how, the who, the when, the cost involved, or who has to pay, or who is responsible, how coordination is made or how they are integrated with other plans and programmes etc. The efficacy of landscape policies at a local level also involves the clear definition of the actors and their responsibilities at all times.

In the Netherlands, some landscape development plans define a very clear and precise programme of actions, which details each actor's responsibilities, the operational schedules, a budget breakdown and channels of finance. Something similar occurs in the German cases and some successful French examples. Greatest efficiency is however attained when a figure with a plan is to be followed exists. The offices of the French regional natural parks or the figure of the 'Landscape Coordinator' in the Netherlands are obligatory references here.

Don't punish - motivate

Another basic way to promote agreement (and social acceptance) at a local level is by maintaining the positive and constructive characters of both landscape rules and regulatory laws, as well as initiatives and projects themselves, avoiding tools and approaches that are reactionary, prohibitive or penalising in nature, and which may be counterproductive. This constructive spirit favours landscape joint landscape involvement and results in the favourable consideration of the landscape, which is seen as an opportunity, by all those areas and actors in a specific territory. Another manner of motivating any initiative is by means of recognition in the form of an award . The majority of European countries (Italy, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Lithuania, etc.) possess national landscape awards as a tool for the public recognition of initiatives, which are often of a local level .

Local Landscapes, Local Mapping

Landscape mapping helps to make the complexity of local landscapes intelligible and should be used as a decision-making tool, while contributing to the raising of public and institutional awareness on the landscape. It is therefore essential to possess a clear, local, direct and precise local-level mapping process that allows improved orientation and definition when incorporating landscape into urban planning and sector strategies. Some initiatives from local Dutch and French local landscape plans or German transition mapping models are good examples. Possessing good descriptive or identifying mapping processes is not enough, what is needed are representations that are focused above all on action. The local area is an optimum level for beginning the development of these new mapping processes, through the use of information technology.

The Mark of the Past, Heritage and Ordinary Landscape

One innovative factor in policies on cultural landscapes centres on avoiding the extreme difference between excellent landscapes and others that are not so good, and which are usually those which we inhabit on a daily basis. These are not those institutionalised assets (architectural assets or monuments, for example) that stand out in the landscape, but landscapes that are valued as heritage as they become viewed as such by the communities who construct them through links and experiences between the population and the land on a daily basis. As such, territorial and urban land policies must take 'impregnated' cultural heritage into serious consideration, whether or not it has been documented, and ensure its involvement in regional planning .

Tools such as the British Historic Landscape Characterisation (HLC), the Dutch landscape biographies and France's areas for the valorisation of architecture and heritage, applied at a local level, are examples that reveal the enormous use that initiatives like Catalonia's PaHisCat may have for local-level landscape policies.

New Ways of Funding for the Landscape

The funding of development and the implementation of tools and projects for the organisation and management of the landscape at a local level is a conditioning factor. It is therefore important to establish different funding alternatives that also involve agreements and the involvement of territorial actors. One example in Europe is the Swiss Landscape Fund, which has financed some 2,000 projects since 1991 with an investment of 100 million euros. Also noteworthy is France's 1% Paysage et Développement, which is not dependent on regular public budgets, and comes from tax revenues collected for a specific purpose. Another formula is one that uses a small percentage from the national lottery for this purpose, as in the Heritage Lottery Fund in the United Kingdom or the Dutch National Lottery.

Another question that needs to be dealt with and improved at a local-level is public-private cooperation (companies, foundations, banks, etc.), as a formula to promote determined landscape initiatives and actions, either through patronage, sponsorship or other imaginative systems, yet to be explored.

Final Considerations

In short, landscape planning at a local level requires us to be innovative, both in terms contents and the way action is taken. It compels us to take on many viewpoints and to be receptive to new methodologies and new instruments of interaction and participation among all actors. It can be seen how those countries with a stronger landscape culture are those with a more varied associative structure and where civil society has a greater role in projects. The time has come to take a leap forward in the current regulatory system to more interactive, rapid approaches that focus on action, with the clear assignment of responsibilities to each party and which strengthen coordination and public-private coordination. A more central role is given to flexible and dynamic tools that centre efforts on aspects considered to be truly important in a determined context: it is better to take on fewer commitments - group-based, powerful and which allow the attainment of highly visible results - than to take on many, dispersed projects that are general in character and which are finally unrealisable.

The European context is facing increased landscape planning and management at a local level, jointly among different areas (urban planning, agriculture, tourism, education, culture etc.), actors (administration, economic sectors, civil society) and disciplines (geography, architecture, landscape studies, environmental sciences, mapping, sociology, design, agronomy, etc.). Those places where this convergence of areas, actors and viewpoints occurs to a greater extent, where every factor provides a determined link and empathy for the place, where points of view are broadened, which are ascribed to the character and identity of the region, are areas that provide more inspiring, innovative and successful solutions.

All in all, the document represents a significant first step in the attainment of a more complete vision that in the future will allow the most interesting initiatives and experiences to be more closely studied, both those led by government authorities and those of civil society, and it provides more responses to the challenges and the questions that are relevant in field of landscape management and organisation on the local scale, in Catalonia, Andorra and the rest of the European area as well. The Landscape and the local perspective website has in fact been created to contribute to this end.

 

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