Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Land Readjustment in Portugal: The Case of Sines

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Land Readjustment in Portugal: The Case of Sines

Article excerpt

Introduction

Statutory planning process itself is inherently discriminatory. Land use plans contain specific proposals for development that often represent considerable restrictions to urban development and strongly affect land value in the market.

As several authors argue, the diverse approaches to the problem of inequitable treatment between property owners are deeply related to different ideologies about property rights and land ownership and rooted in different planning doctrines (Linchfield, 1980; Adams et al., 2001; Louw, 2008; Alterman, 2010).

Concerning planning efficiency, social equity and the guarantee of public facilities provision, two major approaches can be identified that represent opposite ideological sides (Kivell and McKay, 1988; Louw, 2008): one which advocates public ownership of land for broad political and social reasons; and another which defends private property, individual rights and the operation of a free market. Strong arguments on both sides are discussed. Nevertheless, public and private developers commonly recognise fragmented ownership and the difficulty of assembling land as major constraints to urban development in an equity, efficiency and sustainability framework (Adams et al., 2001; Connellan, 2002; Hong, 2007; Louw, 2008).

Planning literature and practice all over the world have already demonstrated that conventional land assembly methods (voluntary exchange or public intervention in the form of expropriation) commonly produce weak outcomes in terms of efficiency and equity (see, for example, Hong and Needham, 2007). This reality is particularly relevant where public funds for any form of expropriation, compulsory purchase and infrastructure provision are limited. In this context land readjustment (LR), also referred to in the literature as land pooling or land consolidation,1 is generally regarded as an attractive alternative to the methods mentioned above.

The historical background of LR is vague. However, several authors report the early beginnings of LR between the 18th century and the second half of the 19th century, in three different cities: Washington (1791), Barcelona (1861), and Kobe (1870) (Doebele, 1982; García-Bellido, 1995; Nishiyama, 1992; Souza, 2011). Besides these examples, it is relevant and opportune to mention the process of reconstruction of Lisbon after the devastating earthquake of 1755. In fact, the 1758 Reconstruction Plan for Lisbon includes a remarkable and a very avant la lettre system of trading properties between the owners of the plan area that allowed the old properties to be transferred into new ones with appropriate equivalent values (Ribeiro dos Santos and Sagarra i Trias, 2011).

Despite these first experiences, it is in Germany that the so-called LR modern legal framework arises, with the publication of the 1902 Law - Lex Adickes Frankfort-am-Aim (Müller-Jökel, 2004; Souza, 2011) which aimed to promote the Frankfurt extension avoiding expropriation processes and stimulating plots exchange between private landowners (Müller-Jökel, 2004).

Although modern LR was born in Europe, during the first half of the 20th century its spread was more relevant overseas. This may have been partly a result of a strong tradition of private property ownership and rights, deeply rooted in most western European countries. In contrast, in some European old colonies, LR was an important trigger for urban development (Larsson, 1997). In Europe, it was only after World War II that the attempts to introduce LR legislation made progress. Some constraints on property rights protectionism were minimised when faced with the urgent need for post-war reconstruction. In countries like France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Norway and even Germany LR was initially more successfully applied in rural areas, as a strategy to increase the agricultural productivity, but it was later recognised as an efficient mechanism to promote the reconstruction of the main urban areas (Souza, 2011). …

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