An Eco-sustainable World

Sustainable Urban Planning

Sustainable Urban Planning

When the first laws on town planning were born, their chief characteristic was an organization and planning of the territory which still suffered from that urbanization which, in various forms, has characterized wide areas of Europe and of our peninsula.

Even if it is marked by a double characterization (medieval urbanization is different from the urbanization had last century, this phenomenon has caused the people of the twentieth century to be concentrated in complex and often chaotic urban centres created after the industrial revolution.
The school of urbanization which was born in those years concentrated its attention in this way, and thus has suffered greatly not only from the need to have a better organization and planning of future urban development, but, above all, from the need to have a better concept of the term TERRITORY.
In industrial and post-industrial terms, the territory was seen as an “environment” to be colonized to allow citizens to reside and be organized productively, giving little or no importance to the productive potentiality of the territory and the consequences had on it by specific concentrations of humans.
It is enough to remember that in most national and regional norms on town planning (where each region has jurisdiction to produce laws), what does not regard the various types of residential areas or industrial areas is classified, with a generic ” Agricultural Vegetation”, as an area of vague planning and development.
Except for the indexes regarding the possibility to build on it, the so-called ” Agricultural vegetation” lies in a limbo in which, despite recent norms (see the Regions of Sicily, Veneto, Lombardy, Calabria, etc.), the planning of this territorial environment is practically random and totally detached from recent international guidelines on Sustainable Development and on the use of Renewable Resources.
Unfortunately, town planning, which comes from a post-illuminist school, has not fully understood that the territory is not an entity which can be casually divided up. It is a living entity and follows rules that have not been established by man but by a thermodynamic model based on ecosystems which we call Nature, Environment, Territory, etc. It has not understood that the territory is a real “Body” that cannot be dissected, separated or reorganized as one likes without having consequences which can also be macroscopic, and sometimes disastrous.
Above all, it has not understood that the question of territorial continuity (on which the European Union has placed its attention, for example, with Nature Net) is a more complex issue than the simple delimitation of simple areas on which to build.
The evolution and the understanding of the principles of Sustainable Development, resulting in the Kyoto Protocol or Notebook 21, to name just the most famous, lets us understand that the territory must ” live” and “produce” according to the above mentioned rules.
The change from the use of the Non-Renewable Resources (Fossil Fuels, Oil, Extracted Material etc.) to that of Renewable Resources (Solar, Wind, Biomass, etc.) greatly shifts the very concept of the use of territory and the urban concentration of human activities.
This model, which is only just developing, requires that the territory be Classified according to clearly identifiable criteria based on Ecosystems, Thermodynamics and Energy.
The use of Units of Landscape generically termed “Agricultural Vegetation” may make our descendants shiver, but, at the moment make us reflect on the necessity of an Evolution in Town Planning without which the application of the various protocols like the Kyoto Protocol or Notebook 21 simply become statements of principle (even though they are codified) and can hardly be applied accurately to the territory.
Town Planning Norms have been under discussion in recent years, both in an academic and in a normative sense, without concrete steps having been taken.
But let’s see which are the fundamental issues to be revised (considering here only areas outside the town).
u Areas which do not regard inhabited centres or infrastructure must be revised by considering their natural and agricultural (conventional produce and biomass) potential or vocation. This reclassification becomes opportune due to the gradual passage from an economy based on non-renewable resources to one based on renewable ones;
u In such areas, which have been reclassified according to well defined scientific and technical parameters, the necessity of a broadening and thus reassemblage of the properties of the land must be reconsidered, especially in the areas around the towns;
u Where necessary, the areas in which there has been urban expansion will be subject to a scale of values where importance and marks will be allocated taking into account the ability of the areas yet to be urbanized to: increase the biodiversity of the site; produce renewable resources; recover natural resources; recover the native fertility of areas at risk of desertification; contain installations for the production of renewable energy (wind, photovoltaic, etc.); safeguard both man and the territory from hydro-geological risk and from the upheaval of the environment;
u Within inhabited centres, the necessity to recover degraded urban areas must be reconsidered in order to create green spaces where the vegetation is chosen not according to often dubious landscape criteria but on the basis of the characteristics of the ecosystem of the area.

Let’s look at the social and environmental advantages:
u The attraction of territorial units which are more suitable for the production of renewable energy (in a market which in the future will be more and more demanding) will require a greater human presence, as requested by the Cork Conference in 1996;
u The rebalancing of town planning would have notable advantages of a social and occupational nature, making our territories less dependant in energy terms on non-renewable and conventional resources, with a smaller social and economic cost and with lower costs of maintenance;
u The abandoning of rural areas and the consequent environmental decline (ground loss, landslides, upheavals, a lack of production of renewable energy) would be considerably reduced with consequent advantages on national and regional budgets;
u The trend of diminishing biodiversity would be considerably inverted as a result of precise urban planning open to the guidelines of the Policies of the European Union.
Such considerations, even if they are general rules, represent the basis for a serious reform of the urban model in the era of Sustainable Development.
The application and the pursuit of concrete policies on this new model of Development cannot be set apart from a real and well legislated connection to instruments of town planning, which the European Union would do well to deal with in a more resolute way among the Member States.
It can no longer be conceived , except in the pursuit of political utopias, that a Great Europe will not set any serious basis for territorial planning based on urban guidelines that “Tie together” the applicability of the Kyoto Protocol or Agenda 21 (again just to name the most famous) to compatible territorial plans.

Guido Bissanti