ENSURE - EuropeaN Sustainable Urbanisation through port city REgeneration

Theme:  Sustainable urban development; port city development; urban regeneration


Port cities have historically been an essential element of European society and economy. Despite overall growth in maritime transport, many European port cities are experiencing the relocation of port-related activities from central areas to other locations. The loss of this economic activity is leaving deteriorating inner city areas. Today brownfield waterfront sites are strategically valuable but their development can be hugely constrained by costs of decontamination treatment, plot fragmentation and complex landownership.

The challenge of port city regeneration has been a topic of debate in several Committee of the Region workshops in recent years and the subject of at least two policy briefings to the European Parliament in November 2016 and May 2017. Globalisation offers an opportunity for port cities to use these old industrial waterfront locations to revive their economy, to strengthen their magnetic pull, to become hubs of innovation and to act as leading examples of sustainable urban planning, ensuring their long-term competitiveness as economic drivers within the EU (European Parliament, May 2017). With the ability to tackle some of the constraints, port cities are ideally positioned to act as beacons of sustainable [1] urbanisation, meeting the global development challenges associated with increasing urbanisation (70% global population will be urban by 2050).

Smaller cities with a thriving economy and high quality of life are often the location of choice for millennials across Europe. The sustainable regeneration of port cities can drive EU growth in the modern economy while leading the way in urban liveability. 

The ENSURE targeted analysis will learn from port cities which have had success in the regeneration of their former port areas and will help to better define the contribution which regenerated smaller port cities can make to the collective socio-economic health of the EU. This activity will result in a unified repository of the critical enabling elements of transformation and development within smaller European port cities focused on funding, knowledge, regulation, citizen engagement, governance and other catalysts. It will build the evidence base for policy making to support the redevelopment of port city areas across Europe. There is no one size fits all but with a unified repository, cities can more easily determine their own solution. There may also be opportunities to develop critical mass between smaller cities through collaboration in certain areas.

The ENSURE targeted analysis shall focus on four small-medium cities that are reflective of Europe’s territorial diversity but share the same challenges and opportunities of implementing a vision to their port city regeneration. The city authorities of Cork, Aalborg, Catania and Brest face major challenges in securing regeneration and re-integrating old port areas back into the city DNA. Challenges include preparing planning strategies; staff resource and capacity building (Cork) of staff to deliver change; land ownership (Cork); unlocking necessary investment (Cork, Aalborg); coordination of multiple stakeholders (all); place making (all); re-using built heritage assets (Brest); and creating effective governance models (Brest, Aalborg).

Policy questions

  • How are port cities impacted by the relocation of port services, economically, socially and environmentally? How does smaller port city brownfield regeneration affect the economic performance as well as the identity of the city and its wider region? What are the main challenges to be considered in smaller port city regeneration?
  • How can policy support smaller port city regeneration? How can governance support in overcoming the challenges in smaller port city regeneration? How can regulation help? What risks must be considered?
  • How can city visions for regenerating city dockland districts be implemented? What solutions exist in other cities to inspire/implement regeneration, including soft drivers of development? What are the financing/funding models available to support regeneration? 
  • What type of catalyst developments are employed to transform and provide a focus for citizens and economic activity? What are the latter’s social, economic and environmental benefits in the public interest? How should/can citizens be effectively engaged in the regeneration process? What is the role of public finance in this and how is value for money achieved? Are there other important synergies which should be considered?



  • Cork City Council, IE (lead stakeholder)
  • City of Aalborg, Department of Urban and Spatial Planning, DK
  • Brest Metropole, Strategy Division, FR
  • Municipality of Catania, IT


  • Ramboll Management Consulting, BE (lead contractor)
  • University College Dublin, IE
  • Trinity College Dublin, IE
  • University of Palermo, IT


€ 249.570,00


December 2018 – December 2019


  • Inception delivery, 4 February 2019
  • Interim delivery, 23 April 2019
  • Draft Final delivery, 23 September 2019
  • Final delivery, 31 January 2020


[1] Sustainable development in the context of the ENSURE targeted analysis is to be understood along the lines of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/)