La nuova legislazione europea per il paesaggio ed il verde

David Brown – Horticultural Trades Association

What are we talking about?
As my colleague Gwen Byrne, President of the European Nurserystock Association mentioned in her address I am here to talk about The EU Thematic Strategy for the Urban Environment (or COM (2005) 718). So what are the issues? Across Europe there are increasing concerns about the quality of our urban environments. The challenges facing cities have significant implications for the health and quality of life of those people who live and work in them. Many of these challenges are common across Member States – for example: poor air quality; high levels of traffic congestion; urban sprawl; waste creation and waste water; and poor quality of the built environment. Environmental problems in urban areas can be very complex to deal with because there are many factors, which can conflict with each other. For example, in Cambridge where I live moves to limit people travelling into the city by car to reduce congestion and improve air quality are hampered by the
desire of shopkeepers to attract customers to new shopping arcades which have just been built. The causes of the problems are also influenced by changing lifestyles and demographic changes. For example in England we are seeing a massive increase in housing and offices being built near to London because that is where much of England’s economic activity takes place and people want to live near to their workplace. Of course the challenges are also changing and will grow into the future. For example the likely impacts of climate change need to be addressed now. Those impacts are not only about increasing temperature but also about changing rainfall patterns and the need for urban areas to respond to issues such as increased risks of flooding caused by torrential rainfall. We all know that plants and open green spaces have a key role to play in addressing those challenges. The challenge to us in this industry is to make sure that decisionmakers also know the importance and take action. The European Commission and European Parliament have recognized the importance which is why the Thematic Strategy has been produced. Now is the time to move forward. So what does the Thematic Strategy for the Urban Environment contain of interest to our industry?

Thematic Strategy – areas of interest 

During negotiations on the Thematic Strategy a European Parliament Resolution expressed regret that the European Commission has not gone further in proposing legally binding targets and deadlines. The European Parliament urged that the Commission, in co-operation with Member States should encourage all agglomerations of over 100,000 inhabitants to establish a Sustainable Urban Management Plan and a Sustainable Urban Transport Plan. The European Parliament went on to stress that Commission guidance documents should include core common indicators to allow comparison and benchmarking between urban areas as well as facilitate the spread of best practice. Most of this advise was accepted by the European Commission. The Commission has taken the view that at this stage it is most appropriate to issue common guidance to Member States and Local Authorities rather than impose strict legal requirements. The view was taken that to set binding targets on Member States at the EU level is not practical – what might be appropriate for Italy might not be appropriate for England. Indeed what might be appropriate for London might not be appropriate for Cambridge. So what should the common guidance contain? I will cover this in three key areas:

1. Sustainable Urban Management Plans.
2. Sustainable Urban Planning and Construction.
3. Financing, Research and Exchange of Best Practice.

1. Sustainable urban management plans
Sustainable Urban Management Plans should be set out in a common framework taking a three-stage approach. Firstly, the collection of data and information in a number of key areas including:
– Relationships between built-up areas and the countryside and the rural environment,
– Urban structure and the proportion of green areas and urban sprawl,
– Local biocide use,
– The assessment of cultural heritage, the built environment and the natural environment, as well as places of ecological interest and the risks to which they are exposed. Secondly, the Sustainable Urban Management Plan should contain objectives to bring about improvements in the above areas. Thirdly, the Sustainable Urban Management Plan should contain practical measures and actions to be taken to attain the objectives. All interested parties (including business interests such as ourselves) should be involved in drawing up Sustainable Urban Management Plans, the plans should be public documents and the plans should be regularly reviewed and evaluated. The European Parliament also called on the Commission to propose a target for green areas per capita for new urban development and calls for the target to be included in the Sustainable Urban Management Plan to prevent any reduction in green areas in urban areas not reaching this target. The European Parliament also calls on Member States to prioritise funding for projects which implement sustainable urban management plans, as well as projects limiting Greenfield and promoting Brownfield developments, and to promote the planting of street trees and designation of more green space.

2. Sustainable urban planning and construction
In terms of planning and construction, the European Parliament suggests that planning should include the provision of more green areas, and calls for more research into the relationship between various urban models and social behavior, harmony and health. In construction the European Parliament stresses that loss of green spaces leads to a reduction in natural ventilation and calls for greater research into cityclimate relationships. The European Parliament also stresses the need to improve the sustainability of construction, highlighting green roofs as a good example for encouragement.

3. Financing, research and exchange of best practice
The Thematic Strategy for the Urban Environment recognizes that many European Cities have developed solutions and approaches to the challenges. But, as is so often the case those solutions and approaches are not well known and not well disseminated. Therefore the European Commission is to support Member States and Local Authorities by providing technical guidance to help Local Authorities adopt an integrated approach to managing the urban environment. It was intended that this guidance would have been available before now but it has been delayed. The Commission also intends to establish a European framework program for exchanging experiences on urban development under the cohesion policy through to 2013. It will also provide support for demonstration projects on urban environmental issues through the LIFE+ Regulation, the Cohesion Policy and the research framework program. The Commission will use various instruments to support training and capacity building for local and regional authorities on urban management issues. The Commission also intends to establish a thematic portal to allow Local Authorities to easily access all relevant information, rather than at present where much of the information is spread over many different websites making it difficult to find. The Commission will monitor and report on progress on adoption of the Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment through the INSPIRE (Infrastructure for spatial information in Europe) initiative. The European Commission is not proposing any strict legislative proposals at this stage because of the diversity of urban areas across the Community and because of the existing national, regional and local obligations. As I have just said the European Commission will be monitoring uptake and has the right to come back with further legislation if the Thematic Strategy for the Urban Environment is not seen to be achieving its aims. Remember that 370,000 premature deaths, mostly in urban areas, are attributed each year to air pollution from particulates and ground level ozone. The only way to improve air quality other than stopping the pollution in the first place is to use plants and open spaces to clean the atmosphere. It is now incumbent on all of us who are in any way involved with plants and open spaces to make sure that the Thematic Strategy for the Urban Environment is successful and delivers meaningful benefits to those who live and work in our cities. I do not just mean those people who grow and sell plants or who do the landscaping work. I also mean those people who simply enjoy seeing plants and green open spaces. Together we can make a real difference to our towns and cities and to the lives of our fellow citizens. Finally, I would just like to show you a couple of examples of green spaces in London – my capital city with a population of over 7 million one hundred and seventy thousand people and many more workers and visitors. These show a traditional park – St James Park and a modern office complex development – Paddington Central. Very different uses of plants and open space, but both providing tremendous benefits for people.

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