European Spatial Planning: An Idea of the Past or Key to the Future?

Front cover of the book European Spatial Planning edited by Andreas Faludi, published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in 2002.

Reflecting on developments in European spatial policy over the past decades, the publication of the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) in 1999 might be considered the highpoint of European spatial planning. A third iteration of the Territorial Agenda of the European Union (TAEU) is currently under preparation, to be finalised under the current German Presidency of the Council of the EU (second half of 2020). The TAEU has, however, developed little debate and has had limited policy influence since the publication of its first iteration in 2007. The TAEU 2020, adopted under the Hungarian presidency in 2011 comprised a relatively strong endorsement of place-based or spatially sensitive policies at all scales within the EU. Emphasis was placed in particular on ‘territorial diversity’ within the EU and the scope for places to capitalise on their ‘territorial potential’ through regionally-specific development strategies:

“[The place-based approach] aims to unleash territorial potential through development strategies based on local and regional knowledge of needs, and building on the specific assets and factors which contribute to the competitiveness of places”. (TAEU 2020, 2011, Article 11).

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Brexit and Cross-Border Cooperation

Following on from my applied research work with the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD) and conceptual work on soft spaces at HafenCity University in Hamburg, I became interested in the idea of the island of Ireland as a ‘soft space’. In a book chapter, I explored the ways in which the peace process enabled the articulation of new geographies for spatial planning and regional development on the island of Ireland. With the Brexit referendum these issues of course came to the fore as it became clear that the relational network of cross-border connectivities which had emerged over the previous two decades was at risk.

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