Landscape Studies Integrated urban development strategies ...

Landscape Studies Integrated urban development strategies ...

Journal of Landscape Studies 3 (2010), 139 – 146

Journal of



Integrated urban development strategies – comparison of European and

Hungarian approaches

Andrea Suvák

Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Centre for Regional Studies,

Pécs, Papnövelde u. 22., Hungary


Integrated urban development is a reviving strategic approach of planning activity that seeks to compound sectoral

policies and harmonize different hierarchical levels of plan-making, with the aim of creating and maintaining social

balance, economic prosperity, a healthy environment and a liveable and attractive atmosphere in cities. Whenever it

comes to decisions concerning complex matters (e.g. the future of a large town) factors have to be balanced and

contested against each other, often accepting deficits in certain fields in order to reach a long term overall optimum. In

the modern age marked by industrialization, economic growth has been at the focal point of spatial development

processes. Today emphasis in urban development matters is shifting towards climate change, social inclusion and a

creative urban environment, all being vital issues for our modern cities.

Countries differ in the way of presenting and addressing these concerns in urban development plans. In many

Central European countries the introduction of an integrated-approach urban development practice, highlighting social

and environmental issues, was supported by the pressure of meeting the European Union norms, which has been a

prerequisite of receiving funds. In Hungary, the regulation of the conceptual type urban planning is not definite. To

ensure that urban development will follow the guidelines announced in the European Union strategies (Lisbon Strategy,

Leipzig Charter), it is prescribed that grants for urban regeneration (practically the only grant that cities with the most

common and most pressing problems can apply for) are only available for cities that have prepared an Integrated Urban

Development Strategy (IUDS). The necessary and favourable elements of the IUDS are described in an IUDS handbook,

however, the legal status of IUDS and its relation to other urban plans is unclear.

This paper examines the critical elements of integrated urban development as well as the presence of sustainability

concerns within these elements in a European context. After attempting to define the ‘ideal type' of the European

integrated urban development concept, it compares the Hungarian ‘ideal type' (norms and elements set in the IUDS

handbook) to the European one.

Key words: Integrated urban development; Sustainable development; Hungary

1. Introduction and methods of inquiry

This paper attempts to analyse how the normative

and comprehensive features of planning have

gained significance in the past few decades, and

how environmental sustainability concerns have

emerged throughout the various urban planning

concepts of Europe and the European Union. The

paper examines the way this concept has been

channelled and translated into Hungarian urban

planning practice by the analysis of the Hungarian

Integrated Urban Development Handbook, a key

document of this concern within Hungarian

planning policy.

The methodology of the research consists

mainly of document analysis: historical analysis of

the shaping of planning theories, analysis of the

Hungarian legal background, as well as of the

recently effectuated European Union norms of

integrated development.

* Corresponding autor; E-mail: 139

Available online at:

A. Suvák: Journal of Landscape Studies 3 (2010), 139 – 146

2. What is integrated

2.1 The formation of urban planning theories

throughout Europe

The 1970s were a time for change in the economic

and social systems throughout Western Europe.

Technological innovations (mainly in transport and

information technologies) redefined the notion of

distance. Globalisation brought about the fading of

nation state power and the parallel strengthening of

the role of cities.

The possibility for cities to be the locations of

investment raised competition among them. At the

same time the functions taken over from state level

posed an increasing administrative and financial

burden on them. Besides, these cities had to face

growing social inequalities within their terrains,

which required interventions due to welfare as well

as to economic reasons. Many states in Europe

initiated urban anti-segregation projects, and the

issue consequently emerged in the European Union

(EU) political agenda (Atkinson & Rossignolo,


It was not only social and economic factors

that shaped the urban planning policies in the

1980-90s. Within the even more complex

environments the very nature of planning needed to

be redefined. The previous planning practice

prevalent across Europe, limiting itself to physical

planning, permission and prohibitions, proved to be

too inefficient to direct multifactor development.

The absence of a harmony within sectoral policies

was a determining factor in the evolvement of a

planning policy that was normative and crosssectoral,

often concentrating on certain spots of

intervention. From the early 1980s on, this kind of

development policy has been referred to as “spatial

development” (Nadin, 2007; Vigar, 2009; Faragó

2003) or as “integrated urban development” in the

early, experimental EU urban development

programs (Atkinson & Rossignolo, 2008). URBAN

I. and URBAN II. were significant contributions to

test and refine this concept. The importance of

cities in spatial processes was expressed in the

regulations of Structural and Cohesion Funds for

the period 2007-2013 (Pupek 2008)

The literature on spatial development and

integrated development accentuate some key

attributes that are inherent in this new planning


• the role of integrating and coordinating sectoral

policies (planning should be comprehensive and


• integration of the different hierarchies of

planning (e.g. national, sub-national and local

levels, all corresponding to EU policies in the

case of member states),

• the need for interregional planning in the case of

cross-border projects,

• the need to have a regard for the spill-over

effects of the plan in space and time,

• special accent on social fragmentation matters

and urban regeneration

A parallel change in European urban

development policies was brought about by the

sustainable development concept and related EU

documents (e.g. the Green Paper on the Urban

Environment CEC 1990) that stressed the role and

responsibility of cities in shaping future

(sustainable) development paths. Sustainable

development itself can be considered to be an

integrated concept. It builds upon the simultaneous

consideration of economic, social and

environmental aspects (Szántó & Sarlós, 2009).

However, in the concept of sustainable

development there is a hierarchical relationship

among these three factors, due to the fact that they

are built up in a systematic way. The natural

ecosystem is the main system, society is its

subsystem embedded in the natural system, and

economy is a subsystem of society, embedded in

both society and nature, and the primal reason for

its existence is to serve the real needs of society.

This relationship also appoints the priority of the

factors, the “health” of the main system being the

most important (Hajnal 2005; 2009).

The incorporation of the sustainability notion

into EU policy has been attempted since the mid

1990s, and documented in the “Green Paper on the

Urban Environment” (CEC 1990), “Sustainable

development in the EU: A framework for action”

(CEC, 1998), the “Leipzig Charter on sustainable

European cities” (German Presidency, 2007) and

the renewed Sustainable Development Strategy

(Council of the European Union, 2006) to mention

only the most important ones. The integrated

development concept of the EU also applies the

notion (or at least the expression) of sustainable

development. The above listed attributes of

integrated development can thus be completed by


A. Suvák: Journal of Landscape Studies 3 (2010), 139 – 146

an attempt to incorporate sustainable development

requirements in planning, however, the integration

of this goal to the other goals of integrated (urban)

development and its achievement is not clear,

albeit a background study of the Leipzig Charter

(DIFU, 2007) states that integrated urban

development policy is a means of sustainable urban


2.2 The Leipzig Charter

The European Union has no single urban model,

and it is argued whether it has a single urban

development policy (Renate Reiter in: Atkinson &

Rossignolo, 2008 p. 17.). However, considerable

effort has been taken on the EU level to enhance

co-operation and to promote “a global and

integrated approach in urban policy” (“Lille

Priorities”, French Presidency, 2000. p. 1.). The

Leipzig Charter is a key contribution to this

process, declaring an agreement of member states’

ministers on “common principles and strategies for

urban development policy” (German presidency

2007). It enhances the role of integrated urban

development in the co-ordination of sectoral

policies, spatial and temporal aspects, the

implementation of sustainable development

perspectives of the EU and the involvement of

economic and public stakeholders in planning and

implementation processes. The overall aim of the

Charter is to strengthen the competitiveness of

cities. Besides all these, it devotes special attention

to the development of deprived neighbourhoods.

Comparing the priorities and suggested

elements set down in the Leipzig Charter and the

common attributes of the European notion of

integrated (spatial) development it can be stated

that the recommendation of the Leipzig Charter

harmonises, in almost all aspects, with the broader

European “ideal type”. The need for intersectoral

policy-making and the strategic (normative) nature

of planning is enhanced, just as well as the pursuit

of being in accord with superior level planning

concepts and with development goals of other

locations at the same level of hierarchy. The strong

anti-segregation part of the Leipzig Charter accords

with the European efforts.

In turn, environmental sustainability, however

well stressed in previous EU documents, is

neglected in the details of the Charter. The

requirements concerning environmental

sustainability seem to be confined to the energy

efficiency goals in new and renovated buildings,

the possibility for better transportation systems and

the “improvement of the structural and physical

residential surroundings including the natural

environment” (DIFU 2007. p. 29). Neither the

Leipzig Charter nor its background studies specify

urban environment points of intervention, like

earlier documents did – the Green Paper on the

Urban Environment (CEC 1990) for example

details water management, urban industry, urban

waste beyond urban energy management and


3. Urban development and urban environmental

legislation in Hungary

Urban development and design is regulated in

Hungary by a number of items of specific and

sectoral legislation. Following the accession to the

European Union it is high on the agenda to create

legislation that calls for comprehensive, strategic

and normative urban development plans.

3.1 Legislation of urban development

Besides the many sectoral policies regulating urban

affairs, the basic legislation for urban (settlement)

development and design is the Regional

Development and Planning Law No. XXI. of 1996

(Spatial Development Law in the following) and

the Act LXXVIII of 1997 on the Formation and

Protection of the Built Environment (Building Act

in the following). The former deals with spatial

development on a national, regional, county and

micro-regional level, while the latter provides the

framework regulations for urban design and

construction processes.

The traditional public administration

boundaries in Hungary coexist with the regional

development territorial hierarchy that was set due

to the EU accession. As a result, Hungary has four

sub-national territorial levels (see Table 1). The

Spatial Development Law deals with both the

regional development and regulatory planning of

the national and of sub-national territorial levels,

excluding settlements. This is due to the definition

of “territory” in the Law: territory refers to spatial

units like regions, counties, micro-regions or areas

of special importance, but settlements are not

understood as spatial units in this law. The content


A. Suvák: Journal of Landscape Studies 3 (2010), 139 – 146

of the spatial development concepts, as well as

regulatory plans for the above territorial levels, is

set in detail in a government decree (No. 218/2009)

that amends the Spatial Development Law. The

hierarchy of the different territorial level plans is

also set. However, the position of urban and

settlement development plans is not defined in this

hierarchy. The Spatial Development Law orders

that the development and regulatory planning of

settlements is to be regulated in a different law, but

this law has not been specified to this day.

The Building Act lays down the rules of

regulatory planning for settlements and regulates

construction processes along with the maintenance

of the built environment. Hence this act concerns

the physical dimension of urban planning. In the

light of the Building Act, planning for cities and

towns is not distinct from that for any type of

settlements - excluding the Budapest

agglomeration, which is regarded as a development

area of special importance, and as such, falls under

different regulations. Reference to conceptual

planning of settlements is scarcely made in the act.

The document uses the term “settlement

development concept” for a plan that harmonizes

different developments and local community

decisions in order to control the future formation of

the settlement, and based on which the structure

plans should be prepared. It is only set that

settlement development concepts are a means of

regulatory planning, and there is a slight allusion

that regulatory plans should be in accordance with

the development concepts. The act also names

integrated urban development strategies (IUDS)

as a compulsory element of settlement

development concepts in the case of towns and

joint planning projects for groups of settlements.

The building act contains no regulations or

prescriptions concerning the content or structure of

settlement development concepts and IUDSs.

While the relationship of further means of

regulatory planning (i.e. settlement structure plans,

regulations for construction, structure map) is

defined in detail, the act does not make it clear how

settlement development concepts and IUDSs relate

to these other kinds of plans, their position in the

settlement planning hierarchy is only indicative.

This act also includes an indication that the

Government has a right to prescribe the content,

temporal scope, working units, conciliation process

and monitoring of both settlement development

concepts and IUDSs. However, no such

prescription or regulation has been actuated thus

far regarding settlement development concepts. As

for Integrated Urban Development Strategies, a

document, called Urban Development Handbook,

prepared by the Ministry of Spatial Development

and Construction, provides guidance for the

elaboration of Integrated Urban Development


Settlement development concepts should

represent the link between the more comprehensive

regional planning and the more physical and

specific (concrete) regulatory planning. However,

it appears that the legislation of spatial issues has a

shortfall right at the level of settlements and cities.

Neither the Regional Development and Planning

Law nor the Building Act appoints the role and

position of settlement development concepts

(Figure 1).

The deficiency of comprehensive legislation of

settlement development is also reflected by Mezei

(2008). Based on her findings of a questionnaire

study 1 (with reply rates of 9,2%), around 46% of

settlements in Hungary had not prepared their

settlement development concepts during the period

of 1990-2003. In the case of towns larger than

50,000 people this rate falls to around 17% (Mezei


3.2 The Hungarian Urban Development Handbook

and urban regeneration

The concept and content of the Handbook is

largely built upon the Leipzig Charter. The charter

emphasizes some key attributes (or strategies)

along which urban development should be

effectuated. The creation of “high quality public

spaces” and infrastructure is one crucial point both

in the “competitive” and the deprived quarters of a

city. It is expected to improve soft locational

factors on the one hand and to promote economic

activity and welfare on the other.

The problem of deprived neighbourhoods

gains special attention in the Charter and also in the

more detailed background study (DIFU 2007).

Strategies concerning education and local

economic development are recommended for the

1 Based on a questionnary research imposed to all Hungarian

settlements in 2003, total reply rate: 9.2%, reply rate of villages:

8.6%, reply rate of towns: 11.8%, reply rate of towns with

county rank: 59.1%.


A. Suvák: Journal of Landscape Studies 3 (2010), 139 – 146

Figure 1. Missing link in the hierarchy of spatial plans at urban level.

Territorial level NUTS/LAU category Number of units

Regions NUTS 2 7

Counties NUTS 3 19+the capital city, Budapest

Micro-regions LAU 1 174

Settlements LAU 2 3152

Of which cities (LAU 2) 328

Table 1. Sub-national territorial levels in Hungary (Source: Hungarian Central Statistical Office).


A. Suvák: Journal of Landscape Studies 3 (2010), 139 – 146

integration of a segregated population and to create

jobs in deprived areas.

The Charter professes ambitious goals of

environmental sustainability. However, the more

concrete guidance on how to achieve it touches

upon merely two subfields: on one hand energy

efficiency, which is to be promoted in housing and

in transport (multimodal transport with special

regard to cycling and walking), and on the other,

compact city structure that delimits the sprawl of

high density polluting settlement structures. The

Charter, however, fails to distinguish between the

different types of urban pollution (air, water, noise,

soil, waste – see the “Green Paper on the Urban

Environment”) and does not provide “etalons” of

the desired state of these elements. The “root

causes” of urban degradation (specified in the

Green Book as functionalism, production and the

organisation of work, distribution and

consumption, housing, tourism, communication

and mobility) are not (re)defined and not addressed

systematically. Thus it can be stated that among the

three sub-systems (economy, society and natural

environment, of which the latter happens to be the

“main system”), the natural environment is the

most neglected one.

The present Hungarian urban development

handbook (Hungarian Ministry for Development

and Economy, 2009) is a modified version of the

handbook first published in October 2007 by the

Ministry of Spatial Development and Construction.

Since its creation the handbook has been a key

document for the Hungarian cities to prepare

integrated urban development strategies and plans.

Its existence is closely linked to the so called

urban regeneration projects”, which have been the

main development sources for cities during the first

and the second programming period following the

EU accession. Grants for urban regeneration have

practically been the only grants that cities can

apply for to address their most common and most

pressing problems. The Hungarian urban

development handbook follows the main concept,

suggested structural chapters and development

strategies of the Leipzig Charter. However, the

“competitive” strategy that is suitable for

somewhat larger cities than the Hungarian ones is

replaced by “function multiplying” strategies in the

Hungarian version. This is sensible considering

that after the Budapest-agglomeration, which has

approximately 2 million inhabitants, the second

level represents cities of a population of only 100-

200 thousand people. Thus the level that is called

“large towns” in EU terminology (500,000 – 1

million) does not exist in Hungary (Ambrus et al.


It is also important to note that the very nature

of bottom-up, or even locally initiated urban

development counts as a novelty in the Central and

Eastern European countries, since the former state

socialist regime employed very highly centralized

control systems in all fields of spatial development,

including urban development (Barta, 2009).

Another specialty of the Hungarian-type urban

regeneration is the dominance of physical

reconstruction of the built environment (Egedy

2009). Similarly to the majority of Central and

Eastern European states, social segregation

problems in Hungary are of a much smaller volume

than in the Western parts of Europe, in turn,

deficiencies in the physical infrastructure

(transportation networks, housing, road systems)

are much more prevalent (Hervainé Szabó, 2008,

Dutch Ministry of Interior, 2004). As a result, the

most prevalent projects of urban regeneration

engaged in the physical reconstruction of historical

city centres, the creation of new functions or even

new centres in districts the renovation of tenement

houses, the regeneration of old brown-field

territories and the development of transportation

(line) infrastructure. Social regeneration gains

more importance in the grants of the second

programming period (2007-2013). The main

locations subject to the “social inclusion” or

“desegregation” type interventions in Hungary are

the industrial pre-constructed block districts (built

in 1960-1990), the run-down, traditionally built

parts (often in close vicinity to the city centres) and

the ghettoes.

Beyond the eloquent titles and general aims,

environmental sustainability concerns of urban

regeneration are only represented as a horizontal

goal (together with the horizontal goal of equal

opportunities), and as such, it is compulsory for

every applicant to commit themselves to making

improvements in certain “sustainability indicators”

defined in the calls for applications. These

indicators extend to water and energy use per head,

the emission of greenhouse gases, the amount of

waste disposed and the number of employees

participating in sustainability knowledge-sharing.

Ironically, one very commonly used “indicator” to


A. Suvák: Journal of Landscape Studies 3 (2010), 139 – 146

measure progress in this field has been the number

of old-fashioned light bulbs replaced by energysaving

ones. This tool is certainly insufficient to

measure improvement in environmental

sustainability, although, in the absence of a

compact and comprehensive indicator-system,

urban regeneration projects seem to be satisfied

with it.

Experts agree that the actual integrated urban

development strategies that have been prepared so

far are too shallow to comprehend and cure urban

problems in detail, and since their legal “status” is

not clear, they only function as a compulsory annex

to the urban regeneration grants (Barta 2009).

3.3 Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

When talking about integrated spatial development

it is inevitable that we mention Strategic

Environmental Assessment (SEA), which, just like

integrated development strategies employs a long

term, strategic and integrative approach. It is a tool

with which environmental aspects can be

integrated in the process of planning. The first

attempts to develop this tool date back to the

1960’s (Szilvácsku, 2003). The European Union

introduced SEA in 2001 to be included in the

planning practice of every member state. It differs

from the previously used Environment Impact

Assessment (EIA) in that the preparation of this

tool follows all the way along the whole process of

plan making iteratively, while EIA was due only at

the end of the planning process. SEA is to be

prepared for all types of plans (development

concepts also), and not only for construction plans

as was EIA (Varjú 2009).

Regarding the deficient incorporation of the

environmental “stake” in integrated development

concepts both on the theoretical and practical level

in EU legislation and Hungary, SEA can have a

crucial role. By monitoring every step and phase of

plan making, SEA can implant the missing

environmental dimension into spatial and urban

development plans.

Hungary complied with the obligation of

introducing SEA by a modification of the 1995

Law on general regulations of environmental

protection, which was supplemented by a

government decree (2/2005). The legislation

specifies the types of plans that are due to SEA. All

existing types of spatial development and

regulatory plans are subject to SEA, however,

settlement development concepts are excluded

from the list. This is complemented by the fact that

SEA is applied by only a fragment of settlements

that, by legal obligations, would be liable to

prepare such documents (Varjú 2009).

4. Conclusion

The concept of integrated (or spatial) urban

development that has evolved in Europe since the

1980-s is well reflected in the Leipzig Charter that

is a base for the formation of integrated urban

development policies for many Eastern-European

countries. However, the environmental

sustainability concerns in this document are present

only in traces, and there is no practical and detailed

prescription for how to achieve urban

sustainability. The Hungarian Urban Development

Handbook has inherited this major deficiency as

well – cities are not obliged to work out

comprehensive urban environmental strategies,

neither are they guided to measure and improve

certain highly polluting elements of urban life.

The Hungarian handbook is too permissive

towards small scale, fragmented developments, the

economic and public effect of which cannot be

compared to large projects in Western Europe. The

handbook and the grants relative to it allow cities

to cover the deficiencies and the operational

deficits that have received short-tailored funding in

the previous decades. Very small Hungarian towns

in particular will not face rocketing development

after the elaboration of their IUDS and receiving

some funds for small scale renovation.

Environmental elements are not presented

equally with economic and social elements. The

“integration” of environmental aspects into urban

conceptual planning fails both on the level of IUDS

and at the environmental control of planning



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