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A Spatial Vision Process for North-West Europe

The first steps in developing a common "Vision"

In the programming period 1994-1999, transnational cooperation in NWE was initiated in the framework of the "North Western Metropolitan Area" (NWMA) Programme. One of the strategic objectives of the INTERREG IIC NWMA Programme was, next to the provision of Community funding of transnational projects in the field of spatial planning, the development of a 'long-term spatial vision' for the North West Metropolitan area to serve as basis for multi-sectoral co-operation in this field. To this end, a 'Spatial Vision Group' consisting of spatial planning experts at national and regional level in the seven Member States of the NWMA Programme was established. The Spatial Vision Group launched and coordinated the Spatial Vision process between 1998 and 2001.

The outcome of the Spatial Vision process carried out under INTERREG IIC was the production of a discussion document, "A Spatial Vision for North-West Europe: Building co-operation", published in September 2000, which outlines a comprehensive territorial strategy for the NWE area. The document aims at serving as a reference for the implementation of the European Spatial Development Perspective in the framework of the NWE transnational cooperation area. Comments on the document were invited from January 2001. Each national contact point organised the consultation in their own country and prepared a report summarising the outcomes of the consultation process. The 'Consultation Report on the Vision Document', summarising the responses received from various types of actors in the seven member states, was subsequently published in June 2001 . This report includes extensive critical but constructive comments made on the Spatial Vision document and process.

A Spatial Vision in support of a common spatial development policy

The Spatial Vision represented a first step to open the debate among planning authorities about transnational spatial planning issues; therefore the consensus that was reached among members of the Spatial Vision Group is as such an important outcome of the project. As outlined by the Spatial Vision Group, "the Vision process has made a modest contribution to starting a dialogue on spatial planning policy at the transnational level in north-west Europe. It has helped to raise awareness about some of the most important spatial development trends which indicate the need for transnational cooperation. The consultation process has provided extensive critical but constructive commentary and will provide a valuable guide to future action. It has succeeded in generating interest and a willingness to cooperate from more interests, although these are still generally government specialists in spatial planning. Nevertheless, the foundations have been laid for widening the debate to other sectoral interests, and to private and voluntary sectors".

The Spatial Vision Process within Interreg IIIB

At the end of INTERREG IIC, there was a consensus among the seven member states and the Spatial Vision Group members that the development of a long-term spatial strategy for the NWE area is an on-going process which should be continued and taken forward during the 2000-2006 funding period. Thus, in 2003 a Spatial Vision Working Group was set up, made up of representatives from the NWE member states and regions. The first meeting of the Spatial Vision Working Group was held in Lille on 24th September 2003 .

There was a general agreement that the continuation of the Spatial Vision process should not be a repeat of the first Spatial Vision but have a more pragmatic and operational orientation- from a 'Vision' to a 'Framework for Action' . The output of the process was expected to provide:

  • A framework to guide strategic spatial planning in the regions and define common goals for territorial development across NWE.
  • A tool to encourage co-operation in a more pragmatic and focused way and to outline future areas for territorial co-operation after 2006.
  • A framework to involve politicians and convince them about the added value of transnational co-operation.

In order to deliver these outputs, four Spatial Vision Studies have been launched along three thematic fields:

  • Polycentric territorial development (including urban-rural relations),
  • Parity of access to infrastructure and knowledge,
  • Sustainable management of the cultural and natural heritage

A fourth study was launched to summarise the main findings of the three thematic studies and provide key transnational issues for future cooperation. Between March and May 2005 a series of workshops were held with key stakeholders in the member states involved in the programme where interim results have been discussed. These stakeholders events together with target interviews helped in shaping the "Framework for Action" which all four studies have set up.


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