Peter Ramsden

1. Introduction

This chapter considers urban development and the way programmes and initiatives, notably under EU cohesion and regional policies, have evolved to address ‘the urban question’.

Section 2 explains in some detail how different policy approaches have evolved, recognising that socio-economic problems and growth are part of a joint “urban agenda” and relying on an integrated approach, both to policy and policy delivery, for addressing them.

Good examples of this integrated approach include the URBAN initiative (Section 3) and mainstream programmes like the UK’s Merseyside Objective 1 programme (Section 4). Policy innovation in the urban mosaic is continuing, with URBACT networks playing a leading role (Section 5).

Much of what has happened and is happening in the field of urban development relies on partnerships and community involvement, and often builds on local strategies. In other words, it has the attributes of local development approaches. Nevertheless ‘urban development’ cannot be equated with a pure ‘local development’ approach, as it involves complex multi-level policies whose strategic integration and delivery, goes beyond the usual scope of local development pursued at the local level.

The concluding section (Section 6) focuses on trends in mainstreaming urban policy in regional development programmes. It also highlights the paradox of local development approaches being commonly used, whilst the formal regulatory framework for EU programmes in the urban context lacks an explicit requirement for a systematic local development approach, in contrast with EU programmes for rural development.

2. The 'urban question' and the emergence of an integrated approach

In keeping with the two perceptions of the EU’s urban areas – cities as problem areas and cities as growth opportunities – the instruments used by EU urban policy may be divided into two groups. The first grew out of mainstream actions to stimulate the economic development of wider regions. It began from instruments and actions used for mainstream regional development, seeking to adapt and evolve them under particular EU initiatives for urban development so that they were better suited to urban conditions. The second, involving early steps towards a distinctive EU urban policy, grew from the perception that cities can be centres of economic growth but can also be afflicted by concentrations of social, environmental and economic problems.

At first, thinking behind the policy seemed to be that there was a necessary two-step sequence to be followed in stimulating regional growth from urban areas – step one, socio-economic and environmental problems had to be overcome; step two, policy makers could then turn their attention to organising a policy for growth. With experience, it became apparent that socio-economic and environmental problems and economic development co-existed, there was, in fact, no sequence – problems could be tackled and inclusive growth pursued at the same time.

The first realisation was that, because of the concentration of citizens in urban areas and the importance of these for production, the urban question was in some ways fundamental to economic and social cohesion. Then, by the year 2000, it was clear that socio-economic problems and growth were part of a joint agenda. In launching the debate at the turn of the century on priorities for economic and social cohesion in the first decade of the 21st century, the European Commission in its second report on economic and social cohesion (CEC 2001) stated that:
"The urban question… is at the heart of economic, social and territorial change. Cities are a key location for the pursuit of a strategy for cohesion and sustainable development." This same report identified four key urban issues:

  • disparities within individual cities were often greater than disparities between the regions of the EU; Inner London is a good example of this having three times EU average GDP but half of children grow up in poverty.
  • environmental pressures are particularly acute in cities;
  • cities act as motors of growth for their region; and
  • small and medium-sized cities have the potential to achieve a more balanced and polycentric development in Europe.

Another problem facing many EU cities is the integration and absorption of migrants, both second and third-generation. They come to France, UK, Netherlands and Germany from their former colonies, as well as, in the first decade of the 21st century from war zones, third countries and even from other parts of the EU. New waves of migration have transformed countries that were historic sources of migration into reception countries – including Italy, Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal. The bulk of migrants of all descriptions settle in cities. They represent a considerable economic potential but it is a potential which can only be realised through sensitive policy making since migration and deprivation combine to exacerbate problems of community cohesion. Tensions occasionally lead to uprisings and riots, often led by second generation migrants discontented with poor access to job markets and heavy-handed policing. The UK and France have experienced long and violent riots. In the UK, these included Brixton and Toxteth (1981), Toxteth and Broadwater Farm (1986), and Bradford, Burnley, and Oldham in 2001. In France, residents in some Paris suburbs rioted in 2005: 9,000 cars were set on fire and 5,000 people arrested.

There is, then, a definite and clear ‘urban agenda’ for city governments, which they have to tackle at the same time as they seek to increase the pace of their economic development. Faster income growth and a more balanced distribution go some way to reduce socio-economic problems and to increase life quality, but policies for development have to be accompanied by a broader range of initiatives. There is now a growing consensus from commentaries – including the EU’s own regulation governing its cohesion and regional policy and its URBACT programme (see below) – and from academic commentators that the solution to problems in urban areas is to be sought through an integrated approach, both to policy and policy delivery. This consensus is founded on the observation that EU cohesion and regional policy can, at one and the same time, be a distinct policy and the instrument for other policies.

This understanding that cohesion and regional policy can be both a policy in its own right and the instrument of other policies is easily illustrated. As a distinct policy, it has the objective to eliminate, or at least lessen, the disparities between the incomes of lagging regions and cities and the EU average. It pursues this objective by promoting the economic development of the lagging regions and cities through the subsidising of investments in public and private infrastructure and services. It is this role as co-sponsor of investments that enables cohesion and regional policy to play its double role, as policy and as instrument – in pursuing its own objective; it helps other policies to achieve theirs.

When, in order to promote the economic development of a region or city, cohesion and regional policy financially supports investment in education and vocational training, in road or rail construction, in waste disposal facilities, in the production of energy from biomass, and when, in doing so, it insists on the qualities and conditions insisted upon by EU policy-makers in these other areas of policy, cohesion and regional policy is acting as an instrument for education, or transport, or environment, or energy policy. This is the important benefit which arises from an integrated approach. It will fuse together the cohesion policy’s roles as policy and as instrument producing several benefits. It secures greater value for public money, since a given sum is used to further a number of policy objectives. It produces an administrative saving since one policy-delivery-mechanism can serve several policy masters.

But there is a cost. The integrated approach to policy-making and delivery, involving, as it does, different agencies and policies, and organised by different levels of government requires ‘modernised’ governance arrangements – what, in current jargon, would be called ‘smart’ government. These must link EU, national, regional, and city governance as well as the private and third sector. Indeed governance – and, in particular, the challenges of uniting in a common purpose different levels of government and a range of local actors – emerges as such an important feature of the integrated approach to policy that it could be considered as an integral part of sustainable development. Good examples of the integrated approach include the URBAN initiative and the UK’s Merseyside Objective 1 programme. On the other hand, there are signs that city, regional and national authorities lack a clear understanding of the efforts they must make if their governance is to reap the benefits of the an integrated approach to policy delivery. (Wolffhardt et al 2005)

The initiative ‘Pathways to Integration’ operated in the Liverpool-Merseyside region of England demonstrated this sensitivity in its actions and projects for the training of unemployed people. Among other things, it co-funded:

  • customised training programmes involving one-to-one mentoring of the voluntary trainees;
  • non-vocational training operating on a non-formal basis to serve as a ‘bridge’ to orthodox training programmes generally perceived by potential trainees as being distant and ‘not for us’;
  • outreach delivery of computer training (using laptop computers) in community venues (again geographically and socially distanced from orthodox training provision);
  • outreach educational provision for young children and, through them, their disadvantaged young parents;
  • the establishment of centres which combined individual-centred educational and employment guidance with active labour-market placement.

These projects recognised the social and geographical dimensions of exclusion from the labour market and were 'closer' in both a social and geographical sense to those excluded. The projects also recognised the multi-dimensional nature of exclusion. One example, a project targeting young homeless people, perhaps best captures this sensitivity. Homelessness was not seen as the 'problem' but as a symptom of a range of interrelated problems (such as family breakup, alcohol/other drug dependency and unemployment) which needed to be addressed in a holistic manner if inclusion is to be achieved

In this vein the European Parliament in its resolution in the year 2000 on the Community initiative for policy action in urban areas, URBAN II, (Official Journal Nov 2000) stressed: “There is a need for an integrated approach to urban policy as currently this looks to be the only way to address economic, social and environmental problems in urban zones.”

The EU Committee of the Regions, in an opinion on the Urban Action Framework, underlined the same point: “The decisive role of cities in the implementation of the EU's main objectives - economic and social cohesion, employment, competitiveness and environmental sustainability.... this demonstrates the need for close involvement of local and regional authorities in all future policy formulation, and recognises that cities… should be true partners in the process.” (CoR June 1999)

European ministries and cities came together in May 2007 to sign the http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/archive/themes/urban/leipzig_charter.pdf(external link) on Sustainable European Cities. It focuses on support for integrated urban development policies in which the spatial, sectoral and temporal aspects are coordinated, and which pay special attention to deprived areas within the context of the city as a whole. It assigns ‘crucial importance’ to three objectives: creating and maintaining high-quality public spaces, modernising infrastructure networks and improving energy efficiency, and delivering proactive innovation and education policies. In deprived areas the Charter suggests the pursuit of strategies for upgrading the physical environment, strengthening the economy and local labour market, developing proactive education and training policies for children and young people, and for promoting efficient and affordable urban transport.

Thus, over 20 years of urban policy making, a consensus has emerged on the desirability of targeting urban regeneration on deprived areas and of a sustained and integrated approach to achieve results both for the people and places concerned. At the same time, it has also become clear, that policy integration – the task of knitting together different strands of policy to maximise the value gained from public investment – requires modernisation of all links in the governance chain, from the EU link to the national, the regional and the city. There are signs that where this modernisation does not take place, there is a loss of policy effectiveness (Wolffhardt et al 2005).

3. Urban Dimension in Cohesion Policy – the URBAN initiatives

The urban dimension has grown steadily in cohesion policy since the first reform of the Structural Funds in 1989, beginning as isolated pilot projects and ending as the experimental element in cohesion and regional policy. The phase of pilot projects culminated in the completion of the URBAN Community initiatives in 2006. Then, beginning in 2007, and lasting until 2013, the current programming period ushered in a period of urban ‘mainstreaming’ in which the experience of urban innovation was incorporated into the main convergence and competitiveness programmes.

Urban pilot projects started off this phase of policy innovation. From 1989-1993 there were 33 urban pilot projects – with an approved EU contribution of € 101 million. This was the first instance of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) being explicitly used to support innovative urban regeneration and planning activities. Success in these pilots led to the launch of a full-scale URBAN Community Initiative (hereafter referred to as ‘the Urban initiative’), which applied across the EU, started in 1994 and ran for two programme cycles, concluding in 2006.

A second wave of 26 urban pilot projects was launched in 1997 with an ERDF contribution of € 63 million. These were conceived as a laboratory to test original ideas and innovative approaches to urban problems by funding projects that were often small scale, were led by municipalities or Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and focused on intractable urban problems in disadvantaged areas. The evaluation and review of these urban pilot projects after ten years review of urban pilot projects(external link) (cache) identified that the integrated approach, through which policy instruments were combined to tackle economic, social and physical problems together, was critical to successful urban renewal.

Experience of this first wave of urban pilot projects was used to help formulate the first Urban Community initiative CEC 2002(external link) (cache) which was launched in 1994 as an instrument of EU cohesion and regional policy and targeted at the regeneration of urban areas and neighbourhoods-in-crisis. A particular feature of the Urban initiative was the intensive involvement of local government and local partnerships. In most cases, local government was responsible for day-to-day implementation of projects, advised by local community groups and in partnership with national and regional authorities and the European Commission.

The EU co-funded 118 programmes under this first Urban initiative, covering a population of 3.2million people. The programmes were integrated and brought together funding for physical investment (from the ERDF) and for improving people’s qualifications and social conditions from the European Social Fund (ESF). They spent € 951 million of EU-finance from the two funds as part of a total eligible investment effort of € 1.8 billion (approximately € 16 million for each programme). This represented a per capita expenditure of € 560 per person (CEC 2000) Urban evaluation(external link) (cache)

Besides its integrated approach, the first Urban initiative was characterised by innovative approaches to combating poverty – through employability, vocational training and inclusive entrepreneurship. Local economic development frequently emphasised the importance of new sectors, such as cultural and creative industries, to urban development, as well as RTD and innovation.

This first Urban initiative was made up of smaller scale actions and projects than would normally feature within a mainstream programme. Examples included restoration of historic town centre areas (such as in Bari, Italy) and renovation of key buildings (such as the Lasipalatsi, Helsinki, a run-down functionalist building which was transformed into a centre for media-related activities including internet access for immigrants, young people and the unemployed).

Many actions focused on local economic development and aimed at promoting both entrepreneurship and employment. One small-scale example was an employment bus in Porto (Portugal) disseminating employment and training information wherever it stopped. Action in Vienna focused on the revitalisation of a local market and support to immigrant businesses, while in Barcelona the focus was placed on reducing school dropouts and absenteeism by smoothing the transition from school to work. Throughout the initiative there were many examples of local communities being empowered and taking over the management, and sometimes ownership, of buildings and services, a form of socio-economic development which has become known as asset-based development.

The first Urban initiative was evaluated [http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/evaluation/urban/urban_expost_evaluation_9499_en.pdf%7C|http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/evaluation/urban/urban_expost_evaluation_9499_en.pdf| CEC final evaluation 2003] and the main findings published in 2003. It concluded that the projects the initiative had co-funded had largely fulfilled their objectives. The study classified the initiative’s projects and actions into four types which emphasise the importance of the so-called integrated approach:

  • A broad integrated approach: a balanced set of economic development, social integration and environmental measures (such actions were present in 45 per cent of the initiative’s programmes);
  • An integrated approach with a particular focus – economic, social or environmental (present in 26 per cent of programmes);
  • A community-focused strategy, with a particular emphasis on local community involvement in the programme (present in 19 per cent of programmes); and
  • A “flagship” strategy, which used a limited number of visible or flagship projects, as a means of generating interest in the programme (present in 10 per cent of programmes).

A summary of the final evaluation, ‘Partnership with the Cities’ http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/presenta/cities/cities_en.pdf(external link) (cache) published in 2003, outlined the parameters of the first Urban initiative programme. It made special mention of the partnership aspects and the new multi-level governance arrangements by which civil society and the third sector played an increasingly important role in actions to improve neighbourhoods and to boost their economic development. This reinforced the conclusions of the programme’s interim evaluation. The First Progress Report on economic and social cohesion published in 2002 reported on developments with URBAN II. 2002 - The Programming of the Structural Funds 2000-2006 An initial assessment of the URBAN Initiative (COM/2002/308 final).

This was followed up in 2003 - Second Progress Report on economic and social cohesion which included further analysis on the URBAN II programmes and contained a specific section (1.3.2) on urban areas)] An initial report http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/informat/info_en.htm(external link) (cache) |Second Progress Report on economic and social cohesion]

The second Urban initiative programme URBAN II(external link) (cache) ran for seven years from 2000 to 2006. It was made up of 70 individual action programmes covering parts of different cities across the EU, affecting about 2.2 million inhabitants – a small population footprint in an EU with 15 Member States and a population of over 250 million people. The areas were selected on the grounds that they faced severe deprivation and specific challenges. Average unemployment and crime rates in the 70 individual areas were twice the EU average. The areas also tended to have more migrants from third countries and tended to lack amenities, including green spaces.

Between 2001 and 2006, the EU invested approximately € 728 million of ERDF money in these areas, about 0.35 per cent of its total structural fund budget. The total investment of the programmes, when national and private sector funds are added together, amounted to approximately € 1.6 billion. As under the first Urban initiative, the funding was concentrated on physical and environmental regeneration, social inclusion, training, entrepreneurship and employment. This second Urban initiative had multiple aims. It sought to promote the sustainable economic and social regeneration of small and medium-sized towns and cities, and of distressed neighbourhoods in larger cities. It emphasised the formulation and use of innovative strategies in each case so as to enhance knowledge and experience. It also stressed the exchange of knowledge and experience in relation to sustainable urban regeneration and community development. It was hoped that the pursuit of these objectives would facilitate the transition of innovative actions into the mainstream of urban development.

Guidelines for the new programme emphasised again the integration of objectives. They asked that development should be for mixed-use, be environmentally-friendly; and should where possible incorporate the reuse of brownfield sites; they also asked that these objectives should be pursued in a way which created employment; integrated local communities (including ethnic minorities); improved security; and generally improved urban life. Actions were also required to focus on support for entrepreneurship and employment; integration of excluded persons; affordable access to public services; developing more environmentally friendly and integrated public transport systems; waste minimising and treatment, noise reduction and encouraging more efficient energy use; and developing the potential created by information society technologies in the economic, social and environmental sectors. There was also recognition that governance was a major problem within cities. Programmes were asked to ‘demonstrate a commitment to organisation change, participatory governance, empowerment and capacity building transferable into mainstream practice.’

There were key innovations. The inclusion of small and medium sized cities was achieved by modifying the population threshold – a population maximum of 100,000 for the city as a whole was abolished and replaced by a population minimum of 20,000 inhabitants, or even 10,000 in duly justified exceptional cases. The use of a single Fund, the ERDF was aimed to bring about administrative simplification and the second Urban programme halved the administrative effort involved in certain aspects such as payment claims. Exclusion of the European Social Fund did not lead to the loss of training and other social actions to tackle exclusion, since special conditions allowed them to be financed from the investment fund ERDF.

The second Urban initiative was complementary to other cohesion and regional policy investment in urban areas. In programmes with a high intensity of funding (Objective 1 programmes) its main thrust was to promote the role of towns and cities as motors of growth for regions as a whole. In programmes with lower rates of funding (Objective 2 programmes), there was a dedicated urban strand accompanied the industrial strand (which was also largely urban) and covered about 7 million people. Where areas covered by the second Urban initiative were within the geographical boundaries of larger cohesion and regional policy programmes the Urban initiative actions were designed to be complementary to the mainstream programme.

The distinctiveness of the second Urban initiative was to focus on the economic and social regeneration of cities and neighbourhoods in crisis. The target areas were therefore usually small pockets of severe deprivation requiring the integration of different policies in both the conception of the actions and their implementation. Measures tended to focus on social inclusion and physical urban regeneration and most had a strong emphasis on partnership and on the participation of communities themselves in the regeneration process.

4. Local development in urban regeneration: a case study of Merseyside

A regeneration initiative carried out in Liverpool and Merseyside, north-west England, initially for the period 1994-1999 but subsequently extended until 2006, provides an example of regional policy working as urban policy. A feature of the regional programme for Merseyside in this period was the targeting of significant spending on 38 distinct parts of the city-region, home to about 500,000 people and experiencing marked concentrations of disadvantage. Part of the extra finance (about € 268 million at today’s exchange rates) was channelled through specially-formed partnerships in the target areas which were required to contain representatives from local residents and community organizations alongside representatives of public agencies, the private sector (where it existed) and voluntary organisations. (In many respects, the initiative bears a resemblance to the actions under the LEADER initiative operated under EU rural development policy).

The instrument for this urban regeneration at the micro-level was EU cohesion and regional policy operated in miniature. The main tools for the policy’s implementation at regional and national level are multi-year development programmes. These set out the priorities for physical investment and investment in people, allocate resources between the projects and establish a calendar to guide progress. For this initiative the 38 parts of the city – the smallest was four streets – followed the same procedure: they drew up multi-year programmes for the regeneration of their area, established priorities and allocated resources. Once the mini-programmes were approved by the city-region, local partnerships representing the regeneration areas worked to put them into effect. The initiative proved, among other things, the versatility of EU cohesion and regional policy procedures.

The objective of the initiative was to help people in the disadvantaged areas of the city-region, who were in danger of being excluded from society and the mainstream economy, to reintegrate themselves Interviews with policy-makers and practitioners and community representatives in the targeted areas revealed the interlocking causes of social exclusion (fragmenting local labour markets, the ‘poverty trap’, caring responsibilities for parents or family members, poor health, poor quality housing) and its (often ‘hidden’) effects (high dependence on tranquilisers, debt, coping with the disappearance of local shops).

What came out strongly from the interviews and discussion groups was a near-consensus that social exclusion in the Merseyside city-region was heavily linked to exclusion from the labour market. By the late 1990s, the city-region stood out as having the highest levels of ‘worklessness’ or economic inactivity in Britain (with an economic inactivity rate of just over 30 percent compared with the corresponding figure of 17.5 per cent in South East England).

The mapping of ‘Pathways’ areas revealed that worklessness was highly spatially concentrated. Their areas were characterised by high rates and long-periods of unemployment; insufficient and inappropriate skills among those wanting work; and a heavy reliance on state welfare services. It offered residents of the selected areas a range of ‘pathways’ towards social inclusion – it was called ‘Pathways to Integration’ – involving schemes for education and skills training; jobs; and a better quality of life. Further, it gave residents in the areas assistance (appropriate training) so that they could take a full part in the design, implementation and monitoring of the projects and actions which the initiative would fund in their areas – in other words, so that they were directing their own development policy.

At the end of the first programming period there were some 260 residents/representatives of community organizations sitting on the boards or area groups of the 38 'Area Partnerships'. The constituencies of these community representatives varied significantly in size from small neighbourhood forums or church groups to large Residents Associations.

Tackling social exclusion of the depth and scale experienced in the targeted urban areas of Liverpool-Merseyside would take several decades – certainly longer than the initiative’s lifetime. But as an experiment in encouraging local participation in all stages of policy management – design, negotiation with budget authorities, implementation, monitoring – the initiative was a success and was valued by the inhabitants of the target areas. An evaluation discovered that there had been a rapid growth of third sector businesses in the target areas, providing people with a first step towards full involvement with the local labour market. It noted:

  • an evolving institutional diversity – social businesses were establishing themselves alongside more hybrid organisations operating under one umbrella organisation with trading activities and charitable operations funded through a mix of market and non-market sources;
  • examples of intermediate labour market projects offering (social) enterprise-led training for individuals and groups of people particularly prone to exclusion from formal labour markets and with employment outputs better than those from orthodox training schemes;
  • examples of environmental projects which were particularly important in a local context where environmental improvement was proving difficult to secure;
  • the formation of a network of social economy practitioners – the ‘Social Enterprise Network’ – to support and promote the sector locally. The network has gone from 10 founding members to 170. Elements of it have been incorporated into UK national initiatives for urban regeneration, in particular the current Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy. The local communities felt that their participation in the urban regeneration process should be regarded as a key outcome of the initiative.

One clear result of this experiment in community participation was to demonstrate the complexity of new forms of governance and the consequent need for policy-makers to keep an open-mind in framing and delivering support for urban regeneration. It demonstrated the increasing complexity of modern urban governance. Implementing policy through a multi-layered “partnership” – of EU, national and city government, and local partners – represented an innovation in governance, with several changes taking place at the same time. For example, there was a growing influence of the EU on local policy-making; there was the ongoing re-positioning of central and local government in relation both to each other, to the private and voluntary sectors and to actors drawn from beyond formal institutions of government.

These innovations made an already-complex process more so. It demonstrated the obstacles to full consensus which are represented by such factors as unequal power relations; the clash between professional ‘governance’ cultures and their community-based counterparts; resource and cultural constraints on community participation; the difficulty of ‘reflecting’ fairly the views of heterogeneous communities. It made clear also the importance of trust between local communities and governance ‘experts’ and the crucial importance of time and political commitment – for building the knowledge and human capital and the trusting networks that social capital and participatory policy require.

The ‘Pathways’ initiative did show that communities are willing to engage in policy if there is a genuine desire for their engagement. It also showed that their participation will be sustained and sustainable where a number of conditions are fulfilled: where power is devolved; informal institutional capacity is developed to encourage collaborative working; and trusting relationships are developed between local authorities, agencies and participating citizens. The fragility of this process of social learning, however, cannot be overstated and efforts are needed to translate it from ‘oral’ culture to a knowledge which is systematized and widely available.

5. URBACT: speeding up policy innovation in the urban mosaic

URBACT is one of the ways in which EU cohesion and regional policy has helped to organise efficient networking systems. It is a spin-off of the second Urban initiative, created to allow cities running programmes and projects under the Urban initiative to exchange experience and share information on techniques for achieving sustainable urban development. Thus it provides support for networks of cities and regions – sometimes as few as five, sometimes as many as 25.

The first generation of URBACT networks proved that cities could learn from each other by developing methodologies for the exchange of experience and knowledge. This breakthrough enabled the more rapid dissemination of new ideas and techniques by finding a common format through which the knowledge transfer could take place. Urbact thus became a knowledge exchange, a vital link in creating and spreading innovations in urban policy and practice.

The second phase of URBACT began in 2007 and will run until 2013. It has built on experience gained under its predecessor and introduced a number of innovations. Experience had shown that very large networks were hard to manage and the second phase of URBACT has limited the number of cities in each network to ten, or eight for a working group.

As part of a more rigorous experimental approach, a six-month preliminary phase before the launch of a network is used to complete a study of the subject the network will develop. This baseline study reviews the state of play in the specific policy field in each of the participating cities and thus produces an account of the ‘state of the art’ on the thematic topic. In this way, the second phase of Urbact is becoming a useful source of current, and innovatory, urban practice.

It is important that the ideas and innovations tested by URBACT networks are put into practice. It therefore requires each partner city to produce an action plan to show the innovation under investigation will be put into practice in the framework cities. The action plan, which has to be elaborated by a local support group of stakeholders in the city, will often draw financial resources from the city’s mainstream European cohesion and regional policy programme. This approach takes learning into action and fertilises mainstream development activity with the latest policy innovations.

The programme is also developing methodologies for involving the managers of mainstream EU regional development programmes – known as managing authorities – in the preparation and development of policy innovations. This is already a requirement for some of the ideas investigated under the second Urbact initiative but it is now being generalised and is bringing immediate success. The 19 networks which successfully completed their development phase in December 2008 involved 180 managing authorities – about half the total number in the EU. This is raising the awareness and understanding of urban needs among the bodies which are managing the financial resources of EU cohesion and regional policy – about € 50 billion a year – and giving them the opportunity to incorporate state-of-the-art policy into their development practice.

The sharper focus on bringing the results of network-based learning back to each city is already bearing fruit. Cities are now using case studies and field visits to help city managers and politicians to make decisions about future directions of development. For example, cities are taking a prominent position in debates about how to innovate to tackle problems related to climate change, the economic crisis, demographic issues and migration and globalisation itself. The second Urbact initiative is small programme in terms of cost, costing approximately € 30 million over six years, about one millionth of total EU cohesion and regional policy expenditure, but is already having a significant impact. It is proving a cost effective means of kick-starting policy innovation in mainstream development programmes.

6. Conclusions: Mainstreaming urban policy in regional development programmes and the challenge for local development

The role which the EU urban mosaic can play in securing a faster rate of economic growth for the Union is now firmly entrenched in the policy’s implementation. All EU cohesion and regional policy programmes approved since 2007 are required to contain a development priority to support urban development – before that date some programmes made no mention of their distinct growth potential. This priority may take the form of a specific urban ‘vertical’ priority in the programme, or be present as a cross-cutting theme. Now, it is sure that urban and economic development can take place in a more integrated way, so that the benefits of infrastructure investments, for example, and schemes for the support of SMEs and innovation will be more accessible for urban businesses.

Some programmes delivering a high intensity of financial support to lagging regions had emphasised since 1994 urban aspects of growth and had integrated urban investments with other priority actions. The programme for the city-region of Liverpool-Merseyside with its ‘Pathways to Integration’ initiative has already been mentioned and is an example. ‘Pathways’ was intended to assist residents of the 38 poor areas to gain access to economic opportunities being developed through other investments by the main programme for regional development – for example the redevelopment of the Speke Garston industrial area. The region also sought to develop its cultural industries and such actions built a strong platform of event spaces and activities which helped Liverpool to become the EU Capital of Culture in 2008, with consequent growth in the tourism sector.

But it took a change in the 'law' which underlies EU cohesion and regional policy to drive home the lesson that the EU’s urban mosaic is a generator of economic development and growth. The current regulation states: ‘In view of the importance of sustainable urban development and the contribution of towns and cities, particularly medium-sized ones, to regional development, greater account should be taken of them by developing their role in programming to promote urban regeneration.’ This reflects the EU’s new determination to make specific provision in its cohesion and regional policy to support sustainable urban development. The regulation also mentions supporting polycentric development including the improvement of urban networks and urban-rural links as well calling for strategies to tackle common urban-rural problems.

According to an analysis carried out by the DG REGIO (May 2007) for the first 300 programmes to be approved by the European Commission for the years 2007-2013 about six per cent of the total finance had been ‘earmarked’ for urban regeneration and development. Within this envelope, approximately € 3.3 billion was intended to prepare former industrial sites, brownfield sites, for re-use; € 8.3 billion was set aside for the regeneration of urban and rural areas; and € 7 billion for investment in urban transport infrastructure. In addition, € 900 million had been allocated for the improvement of housing.

A detailed analysis of 23 programmes, about five per cent of the total, showed planned expenditure on urban investment is a good deal higher than 6 per cent, in fact between 10 and 30 per cent with the higher figures in EU15 Member States where the urban mosaic and polycentricity of cities are most dense. In programmes delivering the highest intensity of financial support – those in the poorest regions – urban operations are generally focused on improving the natural and physical environment, accessibility and mobility as well as social inclusion and support for SMEs. In regions where the emphasis is on improving competitiveness and where aid is less intense, there is a concentration of financial support on innovation and actions for SMEs which will heighten their links with the knowledge economy as well as integrated actions targeting disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

As well as the formal programme activity described above the European Commission has also stimulated a wider dialogue on urban matters using a range of new instruments. These have included regular city summits since `1999, and the use of ‘the open method of coordination’ in the field of planning.

An integrated approach in dealing with all aspects of "the urban question" is now well established in policies and programmes in the EU and encompasses both a vertical and a horizontal dimension. The former is a sine qua non for the success of any intervention in a complex urban environment. The latter is the embodiment of the local development approach and a 'must' for modern and effective governance. Local partnership and community involvement have become commonplace in the initiatives and programmes reviewed in this chapter, although tensions often arise as to whether urban development at local level should be community-led or city-government-led.

However, there is still a paradox insofar local development approaches are recognised and used in practice in urban development but, in contrast to rural development, they are not explicitly required or prescribed in the current EU regulatory framework. In theory this could be changing in the post-2013 period with the introduction of multi-fund 'community-led local development' (CLLD) but so far there are no signs of any detailed preparations for the introduction of CLLD in the urban context to signal any likely major shift in the position of the European Commission and Member States.

Notes and references

The European Commission and European Parliament have continued an ongoing discourse on urban issues. This included the 1999 Action Plan for Sustainable Urban Development Action plan for Sustainable Urban Development(external link) (cache). In 1997 an observatory was established to carry out an Urban Audit Urban Audit(external link) (cache) to create a new set of urban indicators that can work in different EU Member States.
2001 - Second report on economic and social cohesion (In particular, see section 1.3.2 "Urban areas") http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docoffic/official/reports/contentpdf_en.htm.(external link)
See Alexander Wolffhardt, Herbert Bartik, Richard Meegan, Jens S. Dangschat and Alexander Hamedinger “Explaining the European engagement of cities – Factors, motivations and effects on local governance” in Eugen Antalovsky, Jens S. Dangschat and Michael Parkinson (eds.) Cities in Europe – Europe in the Cities. European Metropolitan Governance. 2005. http://www.europaforum.or.at(external link)
Official Journal C 339 29.11.2000 pp44-47.
CoR 3rd June 1999 CdR 115/99 fin on Commisson COM/1997/197 final Towards an Urban agenda http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docoffic/official/communic/pdf/urban/urban_197_en.pdf(external link)
Leipzig Charter at http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/themes/urban/leipzig_charter.pdf(external link)
Urban Pilot Projects http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/urban2/urban/upp/src/frame1.tm(external link)
Review of Urban Pilot Projects http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docoffic/official/reports/cohesion3/cohesion3_en.htm(external link)
CEC 2002 The Programming of the Structural Funds 2000-2006 An initial assessment of the URBAN Initiative (COM/2002/308 final) http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docoffic/official/communic/pdf/urban/com_2002_308_en.pdf(external link)
CEC 2000 An initial report on the Urban Community Initiative 1994-1999 http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/informat/info_en.htm(external link)
CEC August 2003 Ex-post Evaluation Urban Community initiative (1994-1999) Final Report http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/evaluation/urban/urban_expost_evaluation_9499_en.pdf(external link)
CEC ( ) Partnership with the Cities. The URBAN Community Initiative http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/presenta/cities/cities_en.pdf(external link)
CEC 2002 - The Programming of the Structural Funds 2000-2006 An initial assessment of the URBAN Initiative (COM/2002/308 final)
CEC 2002 The First progress report on economic and social cohesion published in 2002 reported on developments with URBAN II .
CEC 2003 Second Progress Report on economic and social cohesion which included further analysis on the URBAN II programmes and contained a specific section (1.3.2) on urban areas
CEC 2000 initial report on the Urban Initiative (2000) http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/informat/info_en.htm(external link)
URBAN II website at http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/urban2/index_en.htm(external link)
ESPON European Spatial Planning Observation Network Polycentric Urban Development and Rural Urban Partnership – Thematic Study of INTERREG and ESPON activities. Pp11-12.
DG REGIO MAY 2007 The Territorial and Urban dimension in the National Strategic Reference Frameworks and Operational Programmes (2007-2013). A first assessment


Created by Peter Ramsden3328 points . Last Modification: Sunday 09 of September, 2012 14:07:20 BST by Haris Martinos1165 points . (Version 29)