Archive of 2016

PURPLE contributes views to CoR Brochure on Rurality

Dec 19, 2016

The Committee of the regions has recently published a brochure entitled “The need for a White Paper on Rurality from local and regional perspectives”.  The brochure is one of a growing number of publications and uploads now available on the CoR website page relating to the “Cork+ 20” event earlier in the year.

The sixteen-page booklet includes a contribution from PURPLE President Helyn Clack.

PURPLE had been asked to be part of this exercise as one of three European networks closely involved in the debate to date. Mrs Clack has taken the opportunity to reaffirm PURPLE’s conviction that any crude rural-urban dichotomy inadequately captures reality and she goes on to point out that “a White Paper on Rurality and an EU Rural Agenda … would serve as a strong signal that the challenges faced by rural areas of all kinds (including peri-urban territories) must also be taken into account at EU level”.

The brochure sets out a range of views from different actors. CoR themselves are firmly in favour of a White Paper as the brochure’s title would suggest. Others in favour of a specific instrument to highlight the importance of rural areas across Europe prefer to talk of a Rural Agenda and gives some clues as to how, for example, from within the European Parliament Rural Intergroup, they plan to make that happen.

Other contributors – Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner , Phil Hogan, and a DG Regio representative - come out against further fragmentation of policy and instruments in this way and prefer to take a broader and multi-agency approach perhaps by addressing the issue within considerations about CAP more broadly post 2020, or as part of the overall 2020+ Cohesion Policy reform measures.

Also within the brochure is an analysis of where Structural Funds money actually goes in terms of territory types. – it sees the inequality here as an exacerbating factor in increasing the gap between urban and rural growth rates. In fairness it should be pointed out that the contributor from DG Regio disputes the validity of the figures as well as the approach. This is clearly a debate that will continue over the forthcoming months and form at least a part of ongoing developments and discussions in 2017 as work looking towards 2020 and onwards continues.


EC and UN reports on cities…and beyond

Dec 7, 2016

October 2016 saw the publication of two key strategic documents with clear implications for the peri-urban. The first emanates from the United Nations, the second from the European Commission (with UN input).

Draft outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III): New Urban Agenda

Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All

Set against a background of rapid population growth projections and resulting urbanisation in many parts of the world, the New Urban Agenda was formally adopted on October 20. It takes urbanisation a key “transformative trend” with more people than ever before living in cities and posits sustainable urban development as a key plank of sustainable development more generally. As the report puts it: “this poses massive sustainability challenges in terms of housing, infrastructure, basic services, food security, health, education, decent jobs, safety and natural resources, among others. It also acknowledges that few of these challenges are new but all remain to be overcome satisfactorily.

As the sub-title suggests, the report overtly links sustainable urban development to human rights and talks of  equal use and enjoyment of cities and other settlements with the ultimate goal of producing “ just, safe, healthy, accessible, affordable, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements to foster prosperity and quality of life for all. It emphasises the rights to adequate housing, an adequate standard of living more generally, equal access to public goods and services. This then is a very broad approach encompassing a huge range of dimensions.

As regards what we might think of as the “territorial” dimension, there are several explicit references to the peri-urban which might prove to be of interest and/or of use to PURPLE member regions. At para 50 for example, under the heading of “Sustainable and Inclusive Urban Prosperity, there is a is a mobility related commitment to “….encouraging urban–rural interactions and connectivity by strengthening sustainable transport and mobility, and also technology and communication networks and infrastructure, underpinned by planning instruments based on an integrated urban and territorial approach ….. This should include connectivity between cities and their surroundings, peri-urban and rural areas”, in the section regarding Environmentally Sustainable and Resilient Urban development there is a further commitment, this time to “…. promoting the conservation and sustainable use of water by rehabilitating water resources within the urban, peri-urban and rural areas.”. The report specifically addresses planning and  the paper claims that “We will encourage the implementation of sustainable urban and territorial planning, including city-region and metropolitan plans, to encourage synergies and interactions among urban areas of all sizes and their peri-urban and rural surroundings”, Land-use planning more especially is also referenced – again with a link to moi0pboility in para 114 where there is an undertaking to support: ”Better and coordinated transport and land-use planning, which would lead to a reduction of travel and transport needs, enhancing connectivity between urban, peri-urban and rural areas”, nor is food supply ignored and we read that “We will promote coordination of sustainable food security and agriculture policies across urban, peri-urban and rural areas”.

So, there are overt references to the peri-urban in a number of places and “commitments” are made for which someone might presumably be held accountable. Just what “promote”, “encourage” and “support” might mean in reality is open to conjecture and certainly the paper stops well short of talking about inter-dependency or mutual need … and whether peri-urban and rural territories belong to urban areas as the text suggests is open to debate!

The draft outcome document available here.


The State of European Cities Report, 2016 - Cities leading the way to a better future

The report’s authors suggest that the first European Cities report has as its key audience policy makers in general and city mayors in particular, its declared purpose is three-fold: it intends to facilitate comparisons between places as well as supporting both the EU Urban Agenda and the UN Habitat III New Urban Agenda as above. (Indeed the paper carries both EC and UN Habitat logos and has two parallel forewords).

Commissioner Cretu’s version of a foreword pulls few punches “City authorities are at the forefront of societal change addressing both new challenges and new opportunities.

With this report, we want to change the perception of cities from being a source of problems to places with potential”. That close focus on cities per se continues throughout the document (not unreasonably given its title perhaps!!) and unlike the New Urban Agenda makes no reference at any point to the peri-urban. Its stated objective is to “….support more evidence-based urban policy making in Europe”.

The report uses the new “degree of urbanisation” approach to indicate the character of the area where the respondent lives. Three types of area have been identified: (1) cities, (2) towns and suburbs, and (3) rural areas. Urban areas are defined as the sum of (1) cities plus (2) towns and suburbs – the purpose being to arrive at some form of model which allows for “Broadville” as opposed to “Narrowtown” using both population density ands distance from city centres as defining characteristics of city/towns and suburbs/rural areas. This is of obvious interest to those of us with a focus on the peri-urban and introduces yet another way of looking at how we label territories of different types.

It uses this approach to offer a Eurostat summary state by state of the proportions of population living in rural/towns and suburbs/city areas and suggest a 30/30/40 combined across all current EU Member States.

The report goes on to set out a number of findings and arguments under the following chapter headings arranged to reflect the contents of the EU Urban Agenda Partnerships and the UN Urban Sustainable Development Goal:

  • Global context

  • Demographic change

  • Urban economic development

  • Education, employment and poverty

  • The inclusive city

  • Urban mobility

  • Resource efficient cities

  • Urban environment and climate change

  • Urban governance

At the same time as attempting to stimulate debate and provide some sort of evidence base, the report also takes the chance to showcase a large number of EU supported projects designed to promote urban development.

The State of European Cities Report 2016 is available here.

PURPLE at the 3rd European Resources Forum

Nov 30, 2016

PURPLE accepted an invitation to speak at the third European Resources Forum in held in Berlin on November 9 and 10 2016. Hosted and presented  under the auspices of the Umweltbundesamt (UBA,  German Federal Environment Agency), the event built upon previous ones held in 2012 and 2014 and sought, as the organisers put it,  to “…. continue the discussion of the current European approach to resource policy and work out new impulses for a resource efficient Europe”.

The event attracted a largely German audience of over 400 with PURPLE invited to participate in a parallel session workshop addressing resource efficient land use in areas where the rural and urban meet. With keynote contributions from the UBA itself, from the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, from EU Commissioner Vella and the United Nations Environment Panel, the event consisted of both plenary and parallel sessions as well as a small exhibition.

PURPLE president Helyn Clack was invited to reflect upon some experiences from peri-urban areas as to the ways in which the rural urban interface might be designed for the benefit of resource-efficient land usage. As well as emphasizing the fact that PURPLE member regions are experts of long standing in this subject area, with years of experience of managing, planning, influencing and reviewing multi-functional land-use, the debate was also an opportunity to once again challenge the outmoded rural-urban typology.  It was pointed out that PURPLE members are especially well-placed to share experiences about the fact that, land itself should be regarded as a valuable resource … “It is an asset, it should be recognised and managed as such – often defined by function, it is more than that with an inherent value and pull upon the human psyche that goes beyond the functional”.

PURPLE is an obvious contributor to these types of debates given that “pressures and complexities as regards multi-functional land use are often to be seen in their most extreme form in peri-urban areas and that might serve as a useful learning point for us all”. The audience was invited to acknowledge the fact that “new ways of living and working serve to blur the divides between urban and rural areas, creating ever-larger and ever-more important peri-urban areas, with their own specific characteristics, problems and opportunities” and that resource-efficient land use is of critical importance as a direct result. This is all too often lost sight of and as the debate focuses on such dimensions as product durability it is important to keep in mind that land too, has potential for greater durability if used in particular ways. Many of the emerging themes and principles developing within the context of discussions about the circular economy for instance are every bit as relevant to how we approach sustainable land use as they are to product and process design.

Mrs Clack had been asked to extrapolate some principles based on PURPLE member experiences in terms of what does and doesn’t work as regards partnership working on land use at the rural-urban interface:

  • “Power relationships between different actors need to be genuine partnerships of equals. There should be no senior and junior partners here! Of course I am thinking here of urban and rural – but there are other important dichotomies as well

  • “As in all good partnership working, there needs to be genuine and mutual understanding – understanding and acknowledgement of each others challenges and lines in the sand. There needs to be mutual respect – no-one has a monopoly of interest on efficient land-use and no one viewpoint should have automatic supremacy over any other – the input from one type of territory has no greater inherent importance or value than any other

  • “We share geographic areas in functional land-use terms and that should be reflected in different constituents coming together to share responsibility, – risk, – reward.

  • “Plans should be cross-complementary and for example my own local authority in the United Kingdom will want to be sure that it is working with - and using information from - other infrastructure provider’s plans including utility providers, the national level Environment Agency, Network Rail, Highways England and the National Health Service”.

Audience members were interested to learn more about PURPLE’s views on subjects such as land grabbing (“we understand it very well and are its most frequent victims”); on the contribution of urban farming (“we need to be careful to define our terms but it is nevertheless a prime example of potential smart land use which should be considered on a case by case basis”); on the UN Habitat III initiative (“we are pleased to see the term peri-urban appear in the New Urban Agenda  and find much there with which we can easily agree”); and finally, on the primacy of food supply and in particular on short supply chains, (“For us the peri-urban is very much about complexity and balancing competing demands – to give primacy to any one dimension is dangerous, of course that is not to downplay the fact that sustainable food supply is of critical importance but the challenges we face  in peri-urban areas are complex, nuanced and multi-faceted. We have known that for a long time”).


A summary of the various conference sessions, including PURPLE's, is available at:

EWRC 2016 event: PURPLE Key Messages published

Nov 29, 2016



Further to our previous detailed news story with regard to the October 12th Seminar “Sustained and sustainable growth strategies around major urban centres”, PURPLE has now published its own Key Messages summary of the event.

This document is a companion piece to the report produced for PURPLE’s 2015 event on the Urban Agenda.  It highlights and synthesises key contributions from the day with a particular peri-urban resonance.

The Committee of the Regions has also now published its own set of synopsis reports of this year’s workshop. The PURPLE event features at , where a summary of the event has been uploaded as part of a pilot project whereby the CoR invited a number of workshop organisers to trial a new online version of the previous workshop compendium.

Brandenburg Joins PURPLE

Nov 4, 2016

PURPLE welcomes Brandenburg as a new member of its network! This brings to a happy conclusion a number of conversations and meetings over the past few months during which time both parties have had the chance to explore possibilities for collaboration on matters of shared interest.  Guest officers from Brandenburg have had the chance to attend a couple of PURPLE meetings to get a flavour of our work and PURPLE president, Mrs Helyn Clack received a formal application for membership in the summer.

Mrs Clack and her Executive Board colleagues were delighted at this development and very pleased to support Brandenburg’s application which was duly approved at the 25th PURPLE General Assembly on 13 October 2016 in Brussels. Mrs Ines Jesse, State Secretary of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Spatial Planning of Brandenburg, gave a talk presenting her region to PURPLE members and explaining their motivation for joining a network focused on peri-urban matters. Mrs Jesse and her three colleagues present received a warm welcome from PURPLE officers and politicians.

Mrs Clack extended her thanks and congratulation to our new member region and said “We are very pleased to see a new peri-urban member such as Brandenburg join our association and we look forward to working with our new colleagues in the very near future, starting with the formalities of signing official membership documents in the next few weeks.

Above: PURPLE President, Mrs Helyn Clack, shaking hands with the State Secretary of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Spatial Planning of Brandenburg, Mrs Ines Jesse, accompanied by Brandenburg officers and PURPLE Vice Presidents, Mr Ludger Stüve and Mr Wojciech Jankowiak

PURPLE & Friends: Peri-Urban seminar at EWRC 2016

Oct 31, 2016

On 12 October, three PURPLE Regions (Surrey, South Moravia and FrankfurtRheinMain) and two non-PURPLE provinces (Val-d’Oise in France and Osijek-Baranja in Croatia) co-organised a seminar entitled “Sustained and sustainable growth strategies around major urban centres - State of play and regional visions for the future”.

The event, which took place at the Press Club in Brussels, was part of the official programme of the European Week of Regions and Cities 2016 - Open Days as was. The seminar drew an audience in excess of seventy from nineteen countries. Speakers included MEP Ivan JAKOVČIĆ (REGI Committee), EESC Member Roman HAKEN, (Rapporteur on the EU Urban Agenda), together with Mrs Katarina NEVEDALOVA who joined us as a representative of the Slovakian EU Presidency and who shared a platform with expert practitioners from South Moravia and Mazovia.

PURPLE president Helyn CLACK both opened and closed proceedings and reminded the audience that "... growth strategies around major urban centres can only be successful if EU strategies and investments - including those made within cohesion policy - maintain a strong territorial focus with more specific attention being paid to peri-urban areas".  This viewpoint very much chimed with the opinions of other speakers all of whom placed emphasis on the differences as well as the similarities in the challenges being faced by territories of varying kinds.

Mrs CLACK made clear that recognition and understanding of the territorial dimension is a key pre-condition of achieving sustainable growth and that in the context of the event’s agenda that meant understanding the unique characteristics of areas surrounding major urban centres. “Without exception we will find a whole complex web of relationships and interdependencies between these areas and the urban centres themselves”, she added. This was very much borne out in the interventions regarding the areas around both Brno and Warsaw that made clear the need to harness genuine partnership working between different actors using all available programme and policy instruments.

In the course of his keynote speech Mr JAKOVČIĆ argued that although Peri-urban areas across Europe in some regards face the same challenges, there is no one-size-fits-all solution toolkit to be applied because of the specificity of local circumstances and the different synergies that exist with the regional and national levels. For example, in some local contexts such as that in Istria, where economic sectors such as culture and tourism are well developed and managed, there may be a stronger rationale for people to remain living outside the major urban centres than is the case elsewhere. As an interesting aside Mr JAKOVČIĆ also pointed out that the type of economic drivers in place locally would also serve to determine from where else in Europe one might want to learn best practice lessons.

Growth without a strategy is hugely dangerous Mr JAKOVČIĆ pointed out and the point was echoed by Mr HAKEN who expressed the feeling that developing strategy can be very challenging where meanings and definitions are not necessarily clear. For example, the concept of “urban space” is not well defined yet and in some Member States an urban area is identified by the number of people living there and in others (as for example in the UK) they are defined in terms of functionality levels: health, education, etc. Notwithstanding such issues, there are clear links between urban and rural areas (definitions notwithstanding!) and we should be sure to look at tools such as LEADER and CLLD as a means of making these increasingly effective. For Mrs NEVEDALOVA, as well as for other speakers, a key element in making successful use of LEADER, CLLD and indeed of Integrated Territorial Initiatives (ITIs) as well as of Cohesion Policy funding more generally,  was to make real the much talked about “simplification” processes that are very often referred to but seem only rarely to be implemented in reality.

This last point was returned to by Mrs CLACK in her concluding remarks when she agreed that sheer complexity and bureaucratic burden remained a serious obstacle in achieving local impact as borne out by her own experiences as a member of an ESIF management committee in the United Kingdom. Such challenges doubtless remain to be overcome Mrs CLACK concluded, but we need to remain positive and focused in order that we can build on our many successes, in which last regard she gave her thanks on behalf of PURPLE to all our speakers and to the audience.