Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Visions on Territorial Cohesion

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Visions on Territorial Cohesion

Article excerpt

Characteristic of the discussion on territorial cohesion is that over time its potential implications have become wider and wider. Also, there seems to be no limit to the number of scales to which it can be applied. The aim of this paper is to show how the abstract idea of territorial cohesion could be rendered more concrete. For this purpose we use the notion of 'territorial capital'. We also emphasise the role of spatial visions, especially as regards political decision making. However, for this to come true, future visions should be developed in a fundamentally different way from that in which the current generation of transnational spatial visions are being formulated.

Characteristic of the discussion on territorial cohesion since its insertion in the EC Treaty in 1997 is that its implications have become wider and wider. Also, there seems to be no limit to the number of scales to which it can be applied. However, while figuring prominently in the current debate it was barely mentioned in the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP)! As is often the case with new concepts, its meaning is unclear.

The aim of this paper is to show how the abstract idea of territorial cohesion could be rendered concrete. The first section attempts to demystify the debate on territorial cohesion. The next section puts forward the notion of 'territorial capital' to elucidate that of territorial cohesion. In our view spatial visions, which we discuss in the third section, are tools for developing the concepts of territorial cohesion and territorial capital and relating these to specific areas and regions. We round off with some concluding remarks.

The debate on territorial cohesion

Above we have treated 'territorial cohesion' as a kind of black box; instead of trying to define it we identify policy issues that are (or could be) addressed by it. Referring to the debate in certain countries and European institutions we focus on the meaning of territorial cohesion.

The debate in the Member States

In a recent paper Faludi (2004; see also the Introduction to this issue) shows how territorial cohesion is being discussed in France and the Federal Republic of Germany. In France, notions of territorial cohesion are rooted in the tradition of aménagement du territoire. Faludi gives a suggestive picture of French planning doctrine being extrapolated to the European scale, as has happened in 1988 with the Structural Funds.

Faludi shows that the debate on territorial cohesion and spatial equity is more than a purely economic discourse. The French approach, regarded as a tradition in its own right in The EU Compendium of Planning Systems and Policies (CEC, 1997), borrows elements from the 'integrated approach' designed to coordinate policy with spatial effects that have specific, substantive objectives in mind. The French approach also promotes what is referred to as 'capacity building' at regional level. In substantive terms it addresses not only the harmonious allocation of economic activities but also sustainable development (Faludi, 2004). This is illustrated by the title of an Act passed in 1999, known as the Voynet Act, Loi d'orientation pour l'aménagement et le développement durable du territoire.

In Germany ideas on spatial policy, in particular what it implies at European level, are shifting. Faludi bases this conclusion on the views of two influential planning institutions in Germany, the Akademie für Raumforschung und Landesplanung (ARL) and the Barat für Raumordnung, an advisory body to the Federal Government. At the expert level German views are shifting towards the French interventionist interpretation of the role of government and of the EU. What could be called the 'core notion' of territorial cohesion, as laid down in the current EC Treaty (i.e. access to services of general economic interest) is also regarded as such in Germany. On top of this, traditional German scepticism about the Community's planning role is weakening (Faludi, 2004). …

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