National concerns for city-regional planning

The larger Nordic city-regions have many common challenges, but there are also differences in priorities between the countries. During 2014, the NWG4 and Nordregio arranged national meetings in Copenhagen, Malmö, Oslo and Tampere. Representatives from both municipal and regional authorities participated in these meetings and were asked to prepare for discussions concerning: (1) intraregional forms of co-operation (formal and informal) and (2) the added value of a Nordic perspective on city-regional planning. The meetings occurred during 2014 and were organized in collaboration with the Danish Nature Agency, the Finnish Ministry of the Environment, the Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, the Swedish Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications, and The Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning. Below is a brief summary of the views expressed at the meetings in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.


Denmark: Collaborative planning for city-regional competiveness

Finland: Tools for implementation of plans and policies

Sweden: Urban development need to counteract social segregation

Norway: Co-ordinating land use, housing and transport


Denmark: Collaborative planning for city-regional competiveness

The Danish municipalities and regions emphasized that a key challenge is to identify how spatial planning can contribute to growth by serving the needs of the business community. Discussions indicated that collaboration and multisectoral co-operation are essential for ensuring a well-functioning city-region, including dialogue with the private sector. More specifically, promoting new forms of city-regional co-operation was stressed as a key policy instrument for creating growth and more competitive city-regions. This co-operation was also seen as important for implementing more network-oriented collaboration between municipalities.

Furthermore, three geographical links were highlighted as ways of understanding the importance of functional co-operation: (1) city to city (national and international relations), (2) urban to rural (hinterland and intraregional relations) and (3) city to suburb (city centre and the immediate metropolitan area). These three relations exemplify the key message that was stressed; there is a need to develop a more flexible collaborative approach to urban planning in cities and regions – beyond administrative borders, across geographical scales and between sectors. When it comes to Nordic collaboration and research, the need for Nordic comparisons and good examples was emphasized, as well as common tools for measuring urban attractiveness and development.

Participating municipalities and regions: Region Midtjylland, Region Syddanmark, Region Hovedstaden, Region Nordjylland, Region Sjælland, City-Region Fyn, City of Copenhagen, Odense municipality, Aalborg municipality, Aarhus municipality and the (now dissolved) Ministry of City, Housing and Rural districts

Copenhagen, Denmark, May 2014

Finland: Tools for implementation of plans and policies

Finnish municipalities and regions highlighted the need for integrating land-use, housing and transport polices into city-regional planning. Transport-oriented planning and investments along growth corridors were stressed as the most interesting approaches to steering urban development across cities and regions. Considering that larger Finnish cities will experience significant population growth in the coming years, a need for national housing policies, with the aim of providing a mix of tenure forms, was expressed.

Co-operation at the city-regional scale was stressed by local and regional as well as national representatives. The so-called letters of intent for land use, housing and transport between states and municipalities were seen as promising tools for strengthening co-ordination within city-regions, between municipalities and between state authorities.

At the conclusion of the meeting, it was agreed that good practice examples from other Nordic countries regarding integrating land use, housing and transport would be a great benefit for the participants. Regarding the potential for Nordic co-operation, there was a general interest in gaining knowledge about tools for planning and policy implementation from other Nordic countries and also in learning more about options for monitoring planning outcomes.

Participating municipalities and regions: Regional Council of Southwest Finland, Regional County Council of Tampere, Regional Council of Oulu, Joint Authority of Tampere City-Region, Turku municipality, Tampere municipality.

Tampere, Finland, October 2014 

Sweden: Urban development need to counteract social segregation

The Swedish municipalities and regions put forth social inclusion, cohesion and segregation as fundamental challenges. Arguments included the contention that the Nordic countries are well known for their safe, secure environment, making it especially important to acknowledge current segregation issues. More specifically, it was emphasized that Swedish cities need to build more affordable housing with inclusive design to counteract segregation. Here, the regional representatives also argued for a stronger focus on the social dimensions in regional planning. Meanwhile, the municipal representatives stressed the need to put ‘everyday life’ at the heart of the planning process. A view shared by all representatives was the necessity for new forms of collaboration between cities and regions. In this context, the representatives expressed a need for a clearer national urban agenda to support and facilitate city-region co-ordination. The high value of improving cross-border collaboration between Nordic neighbours was also noted.

In relation to the potential of Nordic co-operation, the representatives highlighted the importance of tools for monitoring the implementation of comprehensive and regional plans. Moreover, comparisons between Nordic city-regions were put forward as a potential added value arising from Nordic co-operation.

Participating municipalities and regions: Region Skåne, Stockholm County Council, Region Östergötland, Göteborg Region Association of Local Authorities, City of Malmö, City of Gothenburg, Norrköpings Municipality, Linköping Municipality.

Malmö, Sweden, August 2014

Norway: Co-ordinating land use, housing and transport

The core issue discussed with Norwegian municipalities and regions was the importance of planning tools to manage rapid population growth in the city-regions. The discussion focused on the need to find innovative approaches to integrate land use, housing and transport; e.g., promoting transit-oriented development, in which housing development connects to public transport nodes.

A related challenge that was emphasized was the localization and mixing of urban functions, such as housing, offices, retail, industries and other essential amenities. Compact-city policies were put forward as a potential means of making cities more attractive and sustainable. Furthermore, the representatives sought a broader discussion and more research on what urban quality means for a city’s attractiveness. This issue was connected to the general need for urban planning to have an everyday-life perspective, where planning starts from the needs of citizens in their daily activities.

Concerning the value of Nordic co-operation, the representatives recognized the large amount of research conducted on this theme but commented that municipalities and regions need support in the form of brief research overviews from the other Nordic countries. Finally, the importance of Nordic arenas for exchange of knowledge and experiences was pointed out as a development opportunity.

Participating municipalities and regions: Akershus County Council, Rogaland County Council, Region of Trondheim, County Governor of Rogaland, County Governor of Hordaland, County Governor of Akershus, Oslo Municipality, Bergen Municipality, Stavanger Municipality.

Oslo, Norway, September 2014

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