Fri 03 May

Live Case 2: The Ins and Outs of Regional Spatial Planning

Put simply, we are trying to assess the limits to growth in the Frankfurt/Rhein-Main Region.

To this end, we have defined Außenbereich ("Outer Space") and Innenbereich ("Inner Space"), a dichotomy rooted in the German planning laws: There is the built-up area (Inner Space), and the rest. Development – or land take – is consuming parts of this rest, the Outer Space.

The Outer Space is providing ecosystem services, and land take will reduce these services. Demand for ecosystem services is induced by the activies in the Inner Space. After all, we will make up the balance of supply and demand.

In the Envisioning phase we operationalised this. There is a need to reduce complexities and to make assumptions by aggregating regional GIS data, because our database goes into details we do not need to get the picture we want. This process used Baugesetzbuch (Federal Building Law) categories as a guideline.

Outer Space is an aggregation of green areas. It includes priority areas for agriculture and agro land management, forests, ecologically-significant areas, lakes, rivers and priority areas for the extraction of near-surface deposits.

Inner Space consists of residential / mixed / commercials building areas, areas for common use, special building areas, rail, road and air transport, utilities, waste management and sewerage areas.

(It should be noted that both areas in use and areas designed for these uses are covered. Open space within the Inner Space is not regarded as contributing to ecosystem services in this research.)

The Process

During the development scenario analytical process, we first tried buffers around the Inner Space areas. Although this was technically viable, we developed a more sophisticated scheme that took a political policy guideline into account: Future development should be concentrated around railway stations.

Technically, this calculation starts with circles around stations. However, numerous restrictions apply and particular areas must be removed from the calculation, including: Natura 2000 sites, nature reserves, (floodplain) landscape conservation areas, natural monuments, protected landscape components, legally effective compensation areas, legally protected biotopes, flood areas, water protection zones 1 and 2, mineral spring protection areas A and B, protected forest, the Roman Limes (a UNESCO World Heritage designation), 1,000 m buffer around wind farms, safety distances around Seveso III utilities, 400 m buffer around high voltage lines, new delimitation of settlement restriction area, and, last but not least, plus forest and the Frankfurt Green Belt (note: Mind that this Green Belt is inside Frankfurt, unlike London’s Green Belt.).

In short, these restrictions substantially reduce the circular development areas around railway stations.

2030 and post-2030 development scenarios for the Frankfurt/Rhein-Main Region

We applied the Systematic Evidence Review. However, we didn’t restrict our approach to just that, but assessed our needs against our resources and designed a specific database and research agenda. We engaged with our internal Regionalverband GIS and ecosystem services experts. Later, we presented our findings to our scientific partners, who are now investigating whether they can provide additional data, information and knowledge.

We now have a set of maps (with the necessary detailed background information) that represent both our Inner Space and our Outer Space, with two ‘development’ scenarios.

That is: assumptions about land take to be made possible through the on-going Regional Land Use Planning process. Accordingly, this is very much in line with what we described in our first Live Case post.

To be continued…

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Wed 16 Jan

Live Case 1: Dynamic Planning Processes for a Dynamic Region

The Regionalverband (Regional Authority FrankfurtRheinMain) is a specialised authority and a special one: we do regional land use planning for an exceptionally large area - an area which happens to be among the most prosperous and “dynamic” regions in Europe. “Dynamic” should be seen as a shorthand for growth: for more and more inhabitants, more and more jobs, more and more demand for transport, housing, business areas – which results more and more in the need to transform the Außenbereich (undeveloped spaces outside built-up areas) into built-up areas. But, obviously, the Außenbereich is a finite resource…

Photo: Karlheinz Knickel

ROBUST coincides with the process of drafting a new edition of our Regional Land Use Plan. This process follows a legally-defined procedure, and the Regionalverband has highly-qualified staff and decades of experience to tackle this task. However, this operation is far from being standard because it does not concern the territory of just one municipality (which is what the underlying Federal law assumes), but rather 75 collective municipalities, including the core city of Frankfurt am Main.

We could regard this as experimental already because it has not really been done before – too much has changed since the completion of the previous edition of the Plan. Now what is the real ROBUST experiment then?

We will try to assess the limits to growth:

  • How much Außenbereich has to be left to keep this region working?
  • How can growth be designed to be smart, sustainable and inclusive, as the Europe 2020 strategy demands?

To this end we will focus on the ecosystems present in the Außenbereich. What services do they provide? Which of them are indispensable? The whole operation will start with quantitative information based on the Regionalverband’s sophisticated database. Next we will check for the need, the availability, and the value of additional information. As the Living Lab develops, we will define a pilot area to be able to go into detail. Rather than looking at the rather heterogeneous 2,458 km2 in total, we will explore a near-to-core area - the peri-urban zone where urban and rural elements coincide and specific situations prevail that are neither purely urban, nor purely rural.

The Regionalverband’s plan is to engage local authorities, thus political and technical representatives will be involved in the Living Lab. One of the challenges will be to avoid the "nice-to-have" trap: Ecosystem services aren’t limited to endangered species or areas of outstanding natural beauty. This is why this Living Lab has links to two other Communities of Practice. With this Living Lab our planning decisions will be even better informed. Beyond our own area, the results can have an influence on the further refinement of the German planning system, because, after all, this is a sophisticated interpretation of the legal provisions done by one of the big players in this business.

Related Communities of Practice


News about Rural-Urban Europe and the ROBUST project is published regularly in the INFORMED CITIES newsletter.

ROBUST is a European research project involving 24 partners from 11 countries. ROBUST receives funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 727988.

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