Sustainable and Integrated Urban Planning

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Integrated Urban Development StrategiesPublic participation in urban planningStrategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)Urban Design conceptsFeasibility studies

Integrated Urban Development Strategies

In planning urban development in Serbia, the application of integrated strategic planning instruments is a novelty. The first steps in the application of this new planning instrument were made by the project between 2011-2014 in three pilot cities in Serbia – Kragujevac, Užice and Kraljevo.

Initial situation and reasons to tackle this

Over the last ten years, integrated urban development has become increasingly important in many EU Member States. This evolution was notably influenced by the adoption of the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities as pointed out in the previous chapters. Proclaiming a more integrated planning approach in urban development, numerous cities throughout Europe developed Integrated Urban Development Strategies (IUDS). IUDS is a cross-cutting planning instrument and supplements the existing standard urban planning instruments.

In practice, Integrated Urban Development Strategies (IUDS) are implemented through an approach based on a spatial dimension, allowing the identification of problematic and potential areas, and on a resource dimension demanding intensive communication and cooperation between the included stakeholders. Also important is the fact that it can provide for interest-oriented, and thereby limited, sectoral policies.

Uzice3 IUDS

In Serbia such an integrated approach in urban development planning is new. Why did the GIZ/AMBERO-ICON project together with the partner municipalities opt to work on Integrated Urban Development Strategies? One reason is the European integration process and the will to give the possibility for Serbian cities to apply for European funds, but it is not the only reason. Another one was the fact that Integrated Urban Development Strategies for inner-city areas can contribute to minimizing land consumption and to preventing the transformation of green areas, natural and agricultural landscapes into construction land – an important goal of the project.

Process steps and pilot cases of Integrated Urban Development Strategies

The elaboration of an Integrated Urban Development Strategy is carried out in a multi-step process, its final expression being a document containing: new knowledge on the space, ideas on how to improve the area, a vision on what the area could become, strategic goals and activities of development, intervention/activity zones, activity bearers, policies/measures for implementation, timeframe of activities and potential funding sources.

The processes of drafting the Integrated Urban Development Strategies for the centre city zones of Kragujevac and Užice were started in mid-2011, while in Kraljevo, they started in 2013. The decisions on initiating the drafting of the strategies were adopted by the local assemblies, and working teams were formed thereafter, composed of representatives of local administration and public enterprises (urban planning, local economic development, investment management, housing, technical infrastructure, construction land, culture, education, social and healthcare protection, environmental protection, cultural monument protection, sport and recreation, etc.)

In the first step, analysis of the existing conditions in various areas of activities was carried out, and after an assessment of advantages and disadvantages, intervention needs were defined. Hereinafter, a common vision and the sectoral strategic directions for the future development have been formulated. In the final step, being the main goal of the Integrated Urban Development Strategies, a catalogue of measures (a set of activities with defined bearers, methods of financing and a timeframe) has been elaborated jointly with all representatives of the different sectors.

Working group Kragujevac page 73

Results, lessons learned and next steps

The Integrated Urban Development Strategies in all three pilot cities have been adopted by the city assembly. After the adoption, the project supported the cities in their implementation. The implementation phase defines the way the strategy will be realized and what it requires. In addition to the required communication of the strategy, implementation covers the questions of: realization mechanisms, partners, potential sources of funding, working in phases and within timeframes, risk assessment, coordination and monitoring. The operational part of the implementation defines precisely the way the strategy is realized – resolving property-legal relations, data analysis of free parcels/locations, equipping and regulating land, improving abandoned land, demolition or reconstruction of buildings, new construction, urban regeneration (communal and social infrastructure), environmental improvements, as well as ways to attract investors, etc. These were new and different tasks for the local administration, requiring the institutionalization of work so as to form expert teams (representatives of various services) and a management structure that could monitor the realization and communication of the strategy.

The first steps forward in implementing the Integrated Urban Development Strategies were made in Kragujevac and Užice during 2014 and 2015, and the initiatives deal with the development of brownfield locations. Kragujevac opted for developing the location “Military Technical Institute”, while Užice opted for the location of the “Cveta Dabić” factory. After the adoption of the IUDS, the City of Kragujevac decided to continue their successful cooperation with the project by starting with the implementation of one of the defined priority areas, the Military-Technical Institute. The first steps have included the elaboration of an urban design proposal, a study on real estate valuation and an investment cost analysis.

The Serbian government also recognized the importance of integrated planning approaches and the promotion of urban renewal/regeneration of cities in Serbia. At the proposal of the project, some provisions were included in the Law on Planning and Construction in 2014:
• Introduction of an integrated planning as a principle for sustainable urban development (Article 3).
• Authorization of the responsible ministry to establish national programs for sustainable and integrated urban development policy, urban renewal, etc. as a contribution to Serbia’s European integration (Article 39).

Please take a look at our local pilot projects:

Improving participation and transparency

Participation of citizens and stakeholders in planning and decision-making is an essential element of a dynamic and democratic civil society. In recent years, the importance of participation in urban governance in European countries has continuously increased. Several EU policy papers describe the requirements for a better participation of citizens and stakeholders in urban governance (see box below). Moreover, Serbia has signed the Aarhus Convention and herewith committed itself to apply basic principles of participatory planning.
In that context and in view of Serbia’s rapprochement to the EU, there is a need to adapt the urban and spatial planning system to principles and European practice of participation in urban governance. Consequently, the project has put a focus on this issue.

Participation has a long tradition in planning practice in Serbia – it has been an integral part of urban planning since the 1970s, although formally already included within the legislation from 1949 (Resolution on General Urban Plan). In urban planning, participation is usually carried out through special methods and techniques such as advertising, public inquiry, experts’ discussions, presentations, submitting objections to draft plans, etc. The role of participation is primarily related to the formal legal process, conditioned by the legal nature of the plan in which participation mainly serves as a means for legal protection of the participants in the planning process.

However, despite its long tradition, the participation in the planning procedure for urban and spatial plans has some weaknesses. One is the fact that – according to the previous Law on Planning and Construction – participation starts in a rather late phase, when the plans already have a high “planning maturity” and corrections and changes are more difficult than at an earlier phase. Furthermore, although participation is considered as one of the key elements of decision making in the field of public policies and urban governance, Serbian urban planning practice is lacking the insight for its application.

Against this background, the task of the project was to point out possibilities for improving participation and with that enhancing urban planning quality, based on the elaboration of more realistic and feasible plans, more transparent decision-making in the planning process and, last but not least, accomplishing greater social legitimacy of planning. Furthermore, the expected result was to incorporate early public participation into the legal framework. The method applied consisted of testing participatory instruments, evaluating them and afterward, based on the achieved results, proposing their introduction into the legal framework.

Kraljevo7Uzice 2 IUDS

Testing participation in pilot projects

In a first step, different methods of participation and transparency in urban planning were tested and applied during the years 2011-2014 in nine pilot projects in the local communities of Despotovac, Kladovo, Kragujevac, Kraljevo, Majdanpek, Smederevo, Trstenik and Užice. During the project, different scenarios of participation within urban development planning were tested in the pilot projects:
– Earlier involvement of stakeholders and citizen engagement in the formal urban development planning process of a new residential area, a residential commercial zone, a brownfield site, a new touristic area and urban renewal, as well as in the preparation of the strategic environmental assessment report (SEA);
– Implementation of various active participation consultation and information methods throughout the whole process of elaboration of Integrated Urban Development Strategies, which is a new planning instrument in Serbia.

A variety of methods were included and adjusted to local conditions and needs, from informing and consultation to active participation. Among new information methods the following were applied: newsletters, internet advertising, web page, panels, info point, and conference. The new consultation methods were the following: discussion groups, survey (with feedback), online consultations, and choice catalogue. Finally, the most challenging were the active participation methods, which included: workshop, design workshop, World Café, visioning, ideas competition, public forum, round table and ‘’speak out’’.

Besides citizens, other stakeholders were also involved in the planning process, such as local authority representatives, public enterprises and institutions, investors, nongovernmental and civic based organizations.


Guide on participation in urban development planning

Concrete examples of applied participatory methods were illustrated in the Guide on Participation in Urban Development Planning published by the project. The Guide comprises the essential information on what participation is, why to use it, its fields of application, pros and cons, participants to be involved and stakeholder analysis, and differences between formal and informal participation. It explains how to include participation within planning processes while highlighting the importance of taking into account the different planning scenarios and clarifying the different participatory methods.

Early participation enshrined in the new law

The Serbian planning legislation traditionally handles participation through public inquiry, which primarily contributes to the legal certainty of the planning procedure and the involved parties. The innovation is that the participatory approach is now also oriented towards identification and involvement of all interested and influential parties, problem overview and conflict minimization as well as verification and definition of planning proposals.

The examples tested in practice pointed out the steps forward and the possibilities for improvement of the current formal procedure. During the development of the Draft Law on Planning and Construction in the year 2013/14, it was suggested that early participation should be introduced into the law. The legislator accepted the proposal and the regulations regarding early participation were introduced to the Planning and Construction Law in 2014 – Article 45a. In addition to the public inquiry of the draft plan, which takes place at the very end of the planning process, participation in planning has become more multileveled.

Please take a look at the activities in our local pilot projects:

Take a look at our “Guide for participation in urban development planning” that summarizes the experiences from our local projects and presents different methods for participation:

The Strategic Environmental Assessment in the European Union

The Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is an integral and obligatory part of public procedures for the elaboration of plans and programmes, whose implementation is expected to have considerable impact on the environment, within the member states of the European Union. This includes spatial and urban development plans. The basis for the integration of the SEA in those procedures is the adoption of the Directive 2001/42/EG of the European Parliament and of the Council on 27th of June 2001. According to this Directive, the aspects to be considered in a SEA are the expected considerable impacts on “biodiversity, population, human health, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climatic factors, material assets, cultural heritage including architectural and archaeological heritage, landscape and the interrelationship between those factors.” (2001/42/EC, Annex 1 (f)).

The SEA should be elaborated with the participation of all relevant local stakeholders and within a transparent process informing the public about the possible significant negative impacts resulting from the implementation of the plan. Its elaboration in parallel to the process of the elaboration of the plan allows the early integration of the results of the SEA into the final plan. The quality of the final plan can be improved regarding the possible reduction of negative environmental impacts and herewith contribute to the sustainability of the spatial development. In this context the analysis and evaluation of possible alternative solutions for the planned development as well as the establishment of measures to prevent, reduce or compensate an expected significant negative impact on the environment should be an important part of the SEA. Furthermore the report elaborated within the SEA establishes measures for the future monitoring of the different environmental aspects for an early detection of possible significant impact of the development within the planning area.

Steps of the process of a Strategic Environmental Assessment

(based on the EU Directive, adopted in the Serbian Law on Strategic Environmental Assessment and European practices)

SEA process

The implementation of SEA in Serbia

With the adoption of the Law on Strategic Environmental Assessment (LSEA) in 2004 Serbia has implemented the EU Directive 2001/42/EC in national legislation. According to Article 5 (1), the SEA is an obligatory step within the process of elaboration of spatial and urban plans. Just a few exceptional cases are subject to individual decisions on the need for a SEA. After 10 years of experience in the application of SEA in the daily planners’ practice, the SEA has become an integral instrument in spatial and urban planning in Serbia. However, there is still room for improvement in its application. The implementation practice is characterized by quality deficits of the environmental reports and a lack of national standards on content and methodology for the process. Examples of this are lack of adaption to the specific local context of the examined area, the inadequate analysis of alternative plan solutions, insufficient public participation, an unadapted scale for the purpose of the analysis, as well as the identical treatment for the elaboration of SEA for plans of different hierarchy. Furthermore, many aspects that should be examined during the SEA or to be monitored after the implementation of the plan can only be analysed superficially due to the lack of relevant data.
Furthermore, the legislation is still not perfectly harmonized. While the LSEA stipulates SEA for all spatial and urban plans, according to the Law on Planning and Construction SEA is mandatory only for the “Spatial Plan for Special Purposes”. Hence, the legal framework is not perfectly aligned and contradictions of the two laws leave space for the interpretation of the responsible local authority.

Local pilot projects for quality improvement of SEA in urban planning processes

The project „Strengthening of local land management in Serbia” supports the harmonization of the Serbian Law on Planning and Construction with the Law on Strategic Environmental Assessment and has submitted adequate suggestions to the Ministry of Construction, Traffic and Infrastructure.
Furthermore the project is committed to the promotion of an increased quality in the elaboration of SEA reports and their consideration for the development of Detailed Regulation Plans. From 2011 to 2012, the project supported the realization of two SEAs during the process of elaboration of Detailed Regulation Plans in the municipalities of Despotovac and Majdanpek. The SEA helped to analyse in more detail topics such as for instance possible measures to reduce and compensate the expected negative impacts on the environment, expected from the implementation of the Detailed Regulation Plans and the development of the hitherto undeveloped areas (amongst others measures for energy efficiency and waste water management). The examples from these local projects showed how the SEA, and especially its elaboration in close cooperation with local stakeholders from different institutions of the public administration, contributed significantly to the improvement of the quality of the final Detailed Regulation Plan in terms of ecological sustainability as well as the public acceptance of the envisaged development.

Urban Design

Understanding planning as a step by step procedure, and sometimes with iterative character, in which all relevant participants should have the chance to contribute to find the best urban solution, the project supported the early visualization of different development options. In several cases, urban designs showing alternative solutions were the base for intense discussion in coordination meetings, workshops and other events.

Urban designs as a base for the elaboration of the legally binding Detailed Regulation Plan have been elaborated in Despotovac, Kladovo, Kragujevac, Majdanpek and Smederevo. Two main objectives were pursued with the urban designs. First, they were the base for the discussion with relevant public institutions, citizens and other stakeholders. Second, they were necessary to assess the economic and ecologic feasibility. The experience in the pilot projects showed that the elaboration and discussion of alternative solutions prior to the urban plan combined with an intensive public and stakeholder participation can help to overcome obstacles that seemed unsolvable. Moreover, such an approach can contribute to find the best solution and to increase the acceptance of the citizens.

Modell Wohngebiet Despotovac

Please take a look at the activities in our local pilot projects:

Feasibility Studies

The conduction of feasibility studies prior to the formulation of the urban plan is a frequently used step especially in the development of big and complex urban projects. Feasibility studies provide an analysis and an evaluation of a proposed project to determine if it (1) is technically feasible, (2) is financially feasible, including an analysis of the estimated cost and profitability. With that, they provide important information about the chances of an urban development project to be implemented. Usually, such studies are done before starting or at least before the adoption of urban plans. During the project phase, different feasibility studies were conducted in the partner municipalities of Kraljevo, Niš, Majdanpek, Kragujevac and Smederevo.

In Niš and Kraljevo, the project supported the redevelopment of industrial brownfield areas and corresponding pre-feasibility studies helped to analyse the market situation and to elaborate recommendations for the urban plan (Detailed Regulation Plan in Niš and General Regulation Plan in Kraljevo). In Kraljevo, the pre-feasibility study analysed different possibilities for the development of a new land-use and marketing concept in order to enhance a market-oriented development of a former industrial and commercial zone. The results of the analyses were incorporated into the urban development concept for the site. In order to enhance the success of the envisaged future rehabilitation of the “Rajkovo Cave and Ski Resort” in Majdanpek, the project supported the conduction of a feasibility study including a cost estimation for the rehabilitation of the existent but dilapidated touristic infrastructure.


The more recent case study of the revitalisation of the military-industrial complex “Kragujevac VTZ” includes an investment cost analysis regarding the provision of technical infrastructure. This was complemented by a study on real estate valuation for a part of the area before and after the building of new infrastructure. These studies are key elements for the assessment of the economic feasibility of the urban design concept. As a last step, the project will support the city in the exemplary set-up of an investment and project management plan.

Please take a look at the activities in our local pilot projects: