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Italian Cities and National Policies: a long road to walk

A large scale investment is taking place in southern italian cities with the hopes of kick-starting the economy of an entire nation.

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Rome Flickr Moyan_Brenn

 

URBAN DEVELOPMENT: TRADITION AND CONTEXT


Italy has a land area of approximately 300,000 km², and its population is approximately half that of Japan. Its population of approximately 57 million ranks fourth in the European Union after Germany, France and United Kingdom. It is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe.
The local governments of Italy are three tiered, comprising regions (15 regular regions and 5 special regions, totaling 20 regions), provinces (110), and municipalities (8,101). Italy has a large number of autonomous provinces and municipalities and the country has a long and stable history of autonomous bodies. Even if we refer to Italy as a united nation only since 1861, we have to note the long tradition regarding the role of cities in development, not only of the economy.
Since the 14th Century, culture and fine arts, technical innovation and social debates have had a strong focus in the urban Italian model that influenced all Western philosophy concerning the “City” concept. Consider the international strength of Florence between 1300 and 1500 A.D., of Venice between 1500 and 1700, and the glamour, fashion and design influence of Milan in the second half of the last century.
Today, we have in northern Italy, the so-called former industrial triangle formed by Milan, Turin and Genova, the center of national economy, while Rome and Florence are the centres of tourism and politics. Agriculture remains the main industry in southern Italy, prompting calls for more modern development in the area.

 

THE ROLE OF REGIONS IN URBAN POLICIES


The authorities of the central government were partially transferred to the regions, which were established one by one after 1970. Furthermore, the relationships among various local bodies were revised by the constitutional amendment undertaken between 1990 and 2001, as a result of which the Metropolitan Area was added as a new form of administrative division.
The urban policies of Italy are characterised by local level planning that has to be led by the regions. Local plans developed by the regions, the primary objectives of which are local development and the preservation of local resources, have secured the highest standing among statutory urban plans, while making adjustments for coordination with the statutory basic urban plans of the local autonomous bodies.
Local issues in Italy have been resolved in accordance with the Urban Planning Law passed in 1942. The urban master plans devised, pursuant to the Urban Planning Law, have already been adopted by municipalities nationwide, recently entering a period of review. Following the establishment of regions, beginning in 1972, the authority to approve urban plans has been transferred completely to the regions.
In response to the regional policies of the EU, Italy has been implementing a national fund allocation programme since the 1990s, based on plans transcending national territory and the Structural Fund.

 

THE LAST 20 YEARS: RISE, FALL (AND RECOVERY?) OF A NATIONAL URBAN POLICY


The basic framework of Italy for statutory urban plans, subsequent to the decentralisation of authority in 1990, pursuant to the New Local Autonomy Law, is as follows, in the order of descending priority: i) regional territorial plans, ii) provincial territorial coordination plans and metropolitan area plans, iii) municipal master plans, and iv) district plans.

Since the new law for the direct election of the Mayor (1993, after the scandal of “Mani Pulite”) was implemented in most major Italian cities, it has become common place to use EU funds to rethink urban policies. While there is some emphasis on land use as a base for these actions, most of the focus is on long term strategic urban strategy, involving the private and third sector in the discussion regarding the future of local urban communities.

The last decade of 20th Century saw an explosion in the number of urban initiatives. In 1994, for the first time at the national level, a statue was agreed upon to found an Urban National Department to promote the growth of Italy, largely through increased investment in Metropolitan Areas (11 in total throughout the country). Some cities, such as Torino, La Spezia, Venice, Florence, and Bari, distinguished themselves by not only involving citizens in some aspects of the discussion concerning the future of their city, but also initiating a truly innovative process of Strategic Planning.

Torino’s hosting of the 20th Winter Olympic Games attracted around 2 billion Euros of global investment and the city subsequently became an example for the whole country. In the first decade of 21st Century, it was decided, at central government level, to build upon this model (the decision was voluntary and not prescribed in statute), in particular in the cities of southern Italy.

Strategic Planning, as a concept, was transformed from a local well organised opportunity to something which required funding from Central Government; a move which saw the planning progress lose some of its inclusivity and cohesion. We must note, however, that Strategic Planning has not been used to develop projects such as Milan’s plan for Expo 2015, or Naples’s planned hosting of the 2013 International Forum of Culture in its former most important industrial area, Bagnoli.

 

A NEW ROLE FOR THE CITIES OF SOUTHERN ITALY?


Although there were eight regions subject to the EU Structural Fund (areas where the per capita GDP was no more than 75% of the average European GDP) in the 1994-1999 period, the number decreased to four (Campania, Puglia, Calabria, and Sicilia Regions) as a result of the expansion of the EU to include eastern Europe.
Development is taking place in southern Italy as a means of enhancing the competitive power and production capability of the South. To this end, further traffic and transport infrastructures are required.
Of the 12.3 billion Euros to be invested pursuant to the 2007-2013 national strategic framework, 85% will be allocated to the development of the South. The breakdown of the 12.3 billion Euros is as follows: 2.87 billion Euros from the EU Structural Fund, 3.11 billion Euros from the country, and 6.33 billion Euros from the Fund for Underdeveloped Areas (FAS).
These numbers show the scale of the investment taking place in southern Italy and also the importance of the existence of a national strategy that is concerned directly with this part of the country; an investment that will play an important role in kick-starting the economy of the whole nation.

 

WHAT NEXT?


The election of a new national government, led by Mr. Mario Monti, seems to have recatalysed a focus on the importance of cities. More specifically, three Ministries (Development, Cohesion and Innovation) are now focusing their actions on cities, promoting a national cities plan that deals with infrastructure, the digital agenda and smart cities.
But that’s a topic that would need another post!

Concentrazione delle aree metropolitane in Italia

L’Italia dell’eccellenza territoriale

Territori dell’innovazione Territori dell’accoglienza Territori produttivi

 

Written by Paolo Verri, Torino, Italy.

 

 

Source: Censis, 2009

 

Image: Flickr-Moyan_Brenn

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