Linking processes and patterns

30th Jan 2018

Linking processes and patterns: Spatial planning, governance and urban sprawl in the Barcelona and Milan metropolitan regions

A new paper by Sofia Pagliarin is now available online.



Governance dynamics and spatial planning regulations are significant factors in the occurrence (or containment) of urban sprawl. However, qualitative investigations of the planning regulatory systems and practices, and governance arrangements that cumulatively stimulate suburbanisation, typically remain detached from land-change analyses. Based on the concept of institutional frames of spatial planning systems, this article elucidates how governance dynamics and spatial planning practices, at different scales, can partially explain suburban land-use patterns. The territorial transformations of two Southern European metropolitan regions, Barcelona and Milan, are examined through land-use data (1990–2012) at different territorial scales. Demographic (1991–2011) and administrative (2011) data are also analysed. In-depth interviews about individual and collective land management practices have been carried out, as well as document analysis concerning spatial planning laws and regulations. This research shows that the metropolitan character of urban sprawl originates from local planning practices mainly performed by municipal authorities through land-use micro-transformations. Further, it highlights the decisive role that higher-level institutions can play in land containment. Urban sprawl is hence not necessarily an unplanned phenomenon, but rather a ‘differently planned’ local and regional land-use strategy.


You can access and read the full paper here


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