EUI@EURegionsWeek: Supporting peer learning in post-industrial regions
The European Urban Initiative (EUI) workshop session entitled Supporting Peer Learning in Post-Industrial Regions aimed to support capacity building in post-industrial (but not only) cities and regions. The session welcomed over 50 participants from a variety of sectors including local and regional urban authorities, representatives of associations of cities, private sector bodies, NGOs and some EU institutions.
Participants heard about the interesting and varied capacity building offer from EUI including short term city-to-city exchange, peer review processes linked to Sustainable Urban Development strategies and dedicated thematic events.
The panel of speakers, all from European cities or regions, brought to life these opportunities through their interesting stories of city-to-city exchange and peer review.
Participants heard from François Barbet, urban planner, and project manager about the ambitious urban regeneration masterplan from Lille Metropolitan area, a solid example of integrated sustainable urban development in action. This area of Bord de Deûle is historically an industrial area which in the 90s saw factories closing leaving huge brownfield sites vacant. The sites offer potential for redevelopment due to their location near the metropolitan centre and since the industrial decline large amounts of housing have been built.
However, the redevelopment was lacking a coherent framework to ensure a balanced approach to meet needs of the residents and users. As a result, a masterplan was co-designed to include coherent planning of public space, public transport links and a 20-hectare park to meet the nature and leisure needs of the city residents. The metropolitan area of Lille identified several challenges relating to the redevelopment of the park including managing soil pollution, linking the park to the new tram, integrating public equipment, and ensuring architectural quality.
Luckily through existing city connections the city of Turin was at hand to offer their support and expertise in these topics through the city-to-city exchange tool offered by the EUI. Deputy Mayor in charge of city care, public green space, parks, and riverbanks Francesco Tresso presented a similar story of industrial decline which brings these two cities together in their common challenges. He presented the work already done in Turin relating to the green areas around the city rivers which would be the basis of the city-to-city exchange planned in November of this year. Deputy Mayor Tresso explained the value of such exchange “The City of Torino has a similar history to Métropole Européenne de Lille and is excited to share its experience on municipal parks and rivers redevelopment and enhancement actions. Such city exchanges are mutually beneficial and can give municipal staff new purpose and enthusiasm in their daily work".
EUI Peer Review in Thessaloniki
In the second half of the session, we heard from Ms Konstantia Bessa from the Metropolitan area of Thessaloniki who shared her experience of being a city under review in the very first EUI Peer Review which took place in Thessaloniki in June 2023.
As host she explained that although at first it was quite daunting to have this responsibility, she recognised the positive aspects which included the opportunity to engage with many local stakeholders including the numerous local municipalities in her own region “the EUI Peer review activity was an extremely positive experience which allowed the Thessaloniki region to build connections with key stakeholders and make improvements to our SUD strategy”.
Finally in this session we heard from Soňa Raszková from the city of Brno in Czechia. As an experienced peer and contributor to several EUI capacity building events, Soňa explained how this can also bring benefits to the peer city. Being a peer city is not only about providing solutions, but it is also about listening to ideas from at least 15 other cities present and taking away fresh ideas. Real evidence of how peer review processes are designed to be two-way learning journeys.
Share capacity building needs
The session concluded with a quick-fire needs analysis, illustrating the interest of the European Urban Initiative to listen to what the urban authorities need in terms of capacity building. This simple evaluation of the barriers to participation for some urban authorities highlighted the need for support to find partners, advice of the application process and tips for motivating the political decision makers to take part in these exchange activities.
This session was a call to action for the urban authorities present. All participants were invited to review the open call for applications for City-to-City exchange
- European cooperation is even more important in these current times of diminishing resources at local level.
- The EUI C2C exchanges tool is a key opportunity for cities in the EU to facilitate this cooperation.
- Avoiding pitfalls in the design and implementation of Sustainable Urban Development strategies can save urban authorities time and money.
- Peer learning is an ideal way to build bridges with local stakeholders.
- Urban authorities need support to identify good practice cases in Europe.