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MILJØFORSK-Miljøforskning for en grønn samfunnsomstilling

Sustainable urbanisation requirements of small and medium sized urban settlements and their surroundings

Alternative title: Vilkår for berekraftig urbanisering i små og mellomstore tettstader og omgivnadene deira

Awarded: NOK 9.6 mill.

Urbanisation is one of the most conspicuous features of our time. So much as 81 per cent of Norwegians currently live in urban settlements. This has environmental as well as societal impacts, not only in the cities themselves, but also in their semi-urban and rural surroundings. The research project Surround aims to provide insight into how urbanisation affects environmental and cultural assets both in and around small and medium-sized urban settlements, whilst shedding light on the driving forces behind such processes, in order to gain a better understanding of the preconditions for sustainable urbanisation. For a long time, urbanisation was characterized by poorly planned urban sprawl, resulting in space-demanding settlements. In the 1980s, densification was introduced as a counter-strategy. In Norway this principle was introduced i.a. through the research project Nature and Environmentally Friendly Urban Development (NAMIT) (1988-1992), which applied a number of sustainability indicators to examine the municipalities of Sogndal, Horten, Malvik and Trondheim. In Surround, NAMIT's findings function as a basis for comparison, enabling researchers to analyse the processes of change that have taken place during the last three decades in the realms of biodiversity, landscape quality, access to recreational areas, and the historic urban landscape. Mapping of planning processes and attitudes towards these, provide insight into driving forces that may explain how various assets have been managed. Findings will be disseminated in scientific and popular forms and will be integrated in bachelor's and master's programmes. Land use in 1990 and 2017 was compared by means of analyzing aerial photographs for both Sogndal, Horten, and Malvik in 2019, and for eastern parts of Trondheim (the fourth case) in 2020. The analyses are restricted to the core and a surrounding zone within a radius of 1 km from the built-up area. Land-use categories have been developed on the basis of the Nature in Norway (NiN) system at 1:20 000 scale and minimum mapping area of 2 500 m2. Analyses have brought figures of overall land-use changes between three main categories: developed areas, agricultural land, and natural areas. The most significant land cover transitions are linked to arable land being developed or becoming overgrown, and to the transition from natural to urban land. On a more detailed level, we have studied changes in the green infrastructure in the urban centres of Sogndal and Horten. In addition to quantifying transitions between buildings; grey areas; and green areas, we have detected interesting changes in the amount and composition of urban trees. Rephotography has been used to visualize the changes that have taken place. The project’s PhD scholar handed in her thesis in 2022. She will be the sole author of two of the four papers that form the thesis. So far, two scientific articles have been published, that analyze driving forces behind the land use development in the four case municipalities. The project has contributed in building a bridge between planning practice, research and education. Nine bachelor students attending the course «Landscape Planning with Landscape Architecture» at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences have contributed to Surround through four student assignments. These comprise mapping of land-use changes in the municipality of Sogndal, and an analysis of the connections between green infrastructure and biodiversity. In June 2022, a master's student in Climate change management at HVL defended a master's thesis which builds on the land use analyses from Surround in a study of transformation (densification on greyfield land). Furthermore, the researchers in the project have developed digital teaching programs that communicate research findings to courses in planning, nature management, ecology, geography and landscape architecture. These are available on the project website, which will be continued as a resource for education within the topics covered by Surround.

Surround tar utgangspunkt i NAMIT-prosjektet, som på tidleg 1990-tal var med på å etablere fortetting som rådande planleggingsideal. Med tanke på nytteverdi for forskingsfeltet, bidrar funna våre til å nyansere diskursen om fortettingspolitikken, som er omgitt av dilemma og målkonfliktar. Prosjektet har gitt ny kunnskap om haldningar til miljøpolitiske verkemiddel, spenningane mellom byspreiing og fortetting, og dokumentert uventa store variasjonar i effektiviteten av arealbruken. Gjennom detaljert kartlegging av arealbruksendringar gjennom 30 år i og rundt tettstader i fire casekommunar, har desse kommunane gjennom materialet frå Surround eit godt utgangspunkt for å studere konsekvensane av eigen planpraksis og arealbrukspolitikk. Nærstudium av forvaltninga av grønstruktur og kulturmiljø i etablerte småhusområde, gir også innblikk i kva drivkrefter som arbeider for og imot bevaring av desse verdiane. Kombinert med våre analysar av demografiske og sosio-økonomiske, haldningsmessige og samfunnsstrukturelle drivarar bak dei dokumenterte arealbruksendringane, kan dette vere eit verktøy for å dreie arealbruken og tettstadutviklinga i meir berekraftig retning. Vitksaplege publikasjonar og populær formidling frå prosjektet har samfunnsrelevans som strekker seg ut over studieområda, og vil kunne ha direkte nytteverdi for forvaltning og politikk på både kommunalt, regionalt og nasjonalt nivå, noko interessa for prosjektet også tydar på. Resultata frå Surround vil også kunne bidra til å ta den 30 år gamle fortettingsdiskursen eit viktig steg vidare i retning prinsipp for arealnøytralitet. Vi dokumenterer at arealbruken rundt tettstadene ikkje er berekraftig: Trass fleire tiår med fortettingspolitikk, skjer det samtidig ei omfattande byspreiing som fører til tap av naturmangfald og matjord. Mens fortettingsparadigmet vart styrka gjennom samanfall med økonomiske interesser hos tomteeigarar i sentrumsområde, er det vanskeleg å sjå tilsvarande drivkrefter for arealnøytralitet. Berekraftig arealbruk i framtida vil derfor vere avhengig av restriktiv arealplanlegging og handheving av vedtatte planar.

The SURROUND project aims at producing new insights into conditions for sustainable urbanisation in Norway, both for urban settlements and their surroundings. Established knowledge is mainly based on studies of large cities, while our four case study areas (between 8 000 and 200 000 inhabitants) are small and medium sized in international context, potentially covering a knowledge gap. The project is interdisciplinary, based on landscape ecology, historic urban landscape and sustainability governance approaches. It depatures from the previous NAMIT project (1988-1992), which explored conditions for urban development that complies with a wide array of sustainability principles. Four of the present research team members participated in NAMIT, including the NAMIT project leader. This gives a rare opportunity to follow, over a time span of thirty years, both the state of vital sustainability parameters, the development of land use policies, and attitudes towards sustainable urbanisation matters. Five work packages will involve (1) international literature study of urbanisation processes; (2) landscape ecological and cultural heritage case studies, where main data sources will be aerial photos, land-use plans, historical landscape photos, supplemented by field work; (3) sustainability governance case studies, including policy actor, implementation and outcome analysis; (4) explanation of identified changes; and (5) input of project findings to four master and bachelor programmes at the two participating universities, as well as feedback to governance stakeholders, and popular science dissemination. The project will produce 5 peer-reviewed articles in addition to one PhD. International experts in governance and planning theory, as well as landscape ecology and biodiversity will be attached to the two case study work packages throughout the project period, contributing theoretically and in publishing activities.

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MILJØFORSK-Miljøforskning for en grønn samfunnsomstilling