TerritoriALL 12: Take no Land no more

Finding balance between urban development and preservation of natural land is not an easy exercise. According to the EEA “about three fourths of the land take in the EU occurs on agricultural land. Cities have been built on the most fertile soils”, as Mirco Bardero policy officer of the Agency writes in his article.

We need to build houses and infrastructure, but we also need to protect nature and ensure our environment remains in a good shape. This is why in this issue we say “Take no land no more” as we explore the EU objective to achieve a balance between urban development and preservation of natural land by 2050.

No land take has become a high priority topic for the European Institutions. “Soil is a source of life, is critical for biodiversity and plays a critical role in the climate transition”, as the EESC notes in the article we host signed by 3 rapporteurs of relevant opinions.

Read TerritoriALL 12: Take no land no more

But, “despite its paramount importance, soil health remains an overlooked issue. Many stakeholders perceive it as a luxury, rather than the basis needed for sustainable development”, underlines Frida Nilson, CoR’s rapporteur on soil monitoring and resilience.

In ESPON we worked a lot on the No land take objective, with a flagship project -SUPER- but also with events and publications. My colleagues, Marjan and Nikos, present them in an article.

No land take is one of the main priorities of the Belgian EU Presidency and the Vice-President of Wallonia explains how the Walloon Region uses two major territorial planning tools to address the challenges of “maximal land preservation, as well as efficient and consistent land use through urbanization” -what he describes as spatial optimization.

And our authors from the Department of Environment and Spatial Development of Flanders explain how Flanders, as one of the most intensively used and inhabited regions in Europe, addresses the challenges in striking a balance between growth and preserving open space.

Alexandre PETIT, of the IDELUX Group adds that “close cooperation among those responsible for territorial planning in the various territories is necessary for the coordination of territorial planning policies from a sustainable development perspective”.

And Thomas Deridder, Director-General, Destrée Institute adds the crossborder and interregional element of cooperation on urbanisation strategies to address climate change.

Henk Bouwman, secretary general of METREX, finds positive that no net land take policies pause the process of further urban expansion, providing more time to develop and exchange solutions to come back with a better one.

Serena Lisai, from the ACR+ notes that “If we develop policies mainly around energy efficiency, we risk underestimating the environmental impact of sustainable buildings in terms of land use and material resources”.

OECD Rudiger Ahrend and his colleagues clarify that “smart spatial planning does not just aim to reduce artificial land cover. It also promotes sufficiently densely populated settlements that are well connected by public transport”.

But what is the land without its people? In this issue we are also hosting an article by MEP Cristina Maestre, rapporteur of the Harnessing talents in EU Regions report, that calls the Member States to have greater flexibility when establishing priorities within programmatic objectives to be able to favour regions that lose population in a severe and permanent manner.

Read TerritoriALL 12: Take no land no more