SPIMA – Spatial Dynamics and Strategic Planning in Metropolitan Areas

Theme: Metropolitan areas


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 and metropolitan areas 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. Therefore, metropolitan areas often suffer from fragmented policy making.

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 neighboring 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. Furthermore, different planning frameworks need to be considered, which in most cases are not specifically designed to strengthen inter municipal and multilevel cooperation. New governance approaches, though, are promising to ease the potentially unfavourable effects of fragmentation of different municipalities and other public authorities within metropolitan areas.

Even if the roles that metropolitan areas can play for territorial development are increasingly recognised in Europe, there is still no unified typology providing policy makers with a better representation and understanding of the metropolisation of society. The latter would be of relevance for embedding metropolitan development in local and regional development discourses and strategies.

Emerging local and regional development strategies across Europe address some of the metropolitan areas' challenges. Nevertheless, many places lack the policy tools and governance approaches for metropolitan planning and spatial management at metropolitan level.

More specifically, some countries and cities lack formal powers for planning at the metropolitan area level, especially in Central-Eastern Europe and in federal systems. A number of other countries, though, such as France, The Netherlands, Italy and the Nordic countries, have legal frameworks, or even requirements, for spatial planning at a metropolitan level. However, even if there is a legal framework it might be the case that the territory fixed for cooperation does not cover the whole FUA. Moreover, the frameworks vary with wide differences in the level of experience, practice, institutionalization and resources, and therefore have varying measures of success.

With the continuous urban sprawl in Europe and merging of urban zones within metropolitan areas, it is of key importance to assess the role of spatial planning policy and urban governance processes at metropolitan level. Spatial planning policy is one of the three main topics of cooperation in metropolitan areas across Europe. Being cross-sectoral, coordinating and integrating, metropolitan spatial policy can play a significant role in promoting sustainable and inclusive growth.

Policy questions

  • What is the strategic role of spatial planning for cities towards inclusive and sustainable growth within a metropolitan area, taking into account the national context, specificities of each metropolitan area as well as multi-level governance arrangements? Joint agreements and measures between core cities and surrounding municipalities in the metropolitan area are of high relevance. The following key spatial development challenges shall be studied for comparison in and between metropolitan areas:

- Agreements on strategic locations (e.g.: retail centers, transport hubs, hospitals etc.).

- Limiting and managing urban sprawl.

- Stimulating areas for jobs and housing within the metropolitan area, e.g. secondary centers, station towns, strong (well connected) suburbs etc.

- Prioritizing regional infrastructures/amenities and mobility, in relation to land use and development (examples from ongoing research and partner cities).

- Conserving and protecting the environment and resources, including farmland (incl. short food supply chains) and valorizing green spaces (landscape, leisure, biodiversity etc.).

- Addressing potential imbalances in local government finance that are linked to spatial development.

- Including all relevant actors in the process (private, public and civil society).

  • What are the approaches, including governance arrangements, to spatial and strategic planning that can help overcoming the above mentioned spatial development challenges at the metropolitan level in the specific context of each stakeholder´s metropolitan area?
  • Which policy tools and governance approaches can be useful and sensible to plan and manage spatial development at metropolitan area scale, taking into account the context of each stakeholder metropolitan area?


  • City of Oslo, Urban Development Department, NO (lead stakeholder)
  • Prague Institute of Planning and Development, City of Prague, CZ
  • Lyon Metropolis, Department on Urban Planning and Urban Policies, FR
  • European Metropolis of Lille, Territorial Dialogue & Prospective Department, FR
  • Brussels Capital Region, Brussels Planning Agency, BE
  • Terrassa City Council. Department for Territory and Sustainability, ES
  • Brno City Municipality, City Strategy Office, CZ
  • City of Zurich, Department of the Mayor, CH
  • Turin Metropolitan City, IT
  • Vienna City Administration, Municipal Department 18 - Urban Development and Planning, AT
  • Akershus County Council, Department of Planning, Economic Development and Environment, NO


  • Stichting Wageningen Research (Alterra), NL (lead contractor)
  • Metropolitan Research Institute, HU
  • Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research, The Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, NO

Budget: €  276,000.00

Lifetime: November 2016 – November 2017


  • Inception delivery, 29 January 2017
  • Interim delivery, 29 April 2017
  • Draft Final delivery, 29 August 2017
  • Final delivery, 29 November 2017

Contact: Peter Billing (Senior Project Expert) [email protected]Caroline Clause (Senior Financial Expert) [email protected]


SPIMA Final Report.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 3.89MB

ESPON SPIMA Annex I Guidlines

  • Acrobat Document | 1.31MB

SPIMA Final Report Annex II Profiles.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 8.05MB

SPIMA Final Report Annex III Maps, Figures & Tables.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 24.95MB

ESPON SPIMA Brno Fact Sheet.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 949KB

ESPON SPIMA Brussels Fact Sheet.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 1.05MB

ESPON SPIMA Lille Fact Sheet.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 1.01MB

ESPON SPIMA Lyon Fact Sheet.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 1.03MB

ESPON SPIMA Oslo Fact Sheet.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 998KB

ESPON SPIMA Prague Fact Sheet.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 969KB

ESPON SPIMA Terrassa Fact Sheet.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 1.05MB

ESPON SPIMA Turin Fact Sheet.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 1.23MB

ESPON SPIMA Vienna Fact Sheet.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 1.48MB

ESPON SPIMA Zurich Fact Sheet.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 983KB