Our friends from Rostock sent INTA a note on the echoes in the German public debate about our 42nd Congress. We publish below the note and a press article on the Regiopolis approach.
Today the planning office of Rostock, as well as all development agencies, are quite busy with a dozen of legally binding land-use plans to finalise, then to be reviewed at public hearings before a policy decision is made; some of these plans include proposals made during the INTA’s congress such as the national gardener/landscape/urban development exhibition, the next most famous mega project of Rostock. The Rostock’s model of revaluating the role and potential of medium-sized cities was inspiring to all, and the vivid discussion reinforces the confidence of Rostock that the Regiopolis approach to the challenges of the medium and small cities is an efficient instrument.
Meanwhile a famed national journal (OBM, the Journal of German Mayors) published a summary of a debate between German mayors on the Regiopolis approach (see the attached English version). They call the German regional states governments (Landers) to study further the Regiopolis approach implemented in North East Germany. With new railway schedule in 2019 the Region will benefit from improved railway and road connections between Regiopolis city Rostock and metropolitan city Berlin. Dr. Marcus Eltges from “Federal institute on building, urban affairs and spatial development”, who spoke in Rostock, underlined what the Federal State can do to strengthen Regiopolis cities to the benefit of all German intermediate city networks, signalling the beginning of a new period of territorial consolidation. This is a trend that Regiopolis cities strategists in Rostock like to strengthen. In March 2019 the German network of Regiopolis cities will meet with the parliamentarians from German Regiopolis cities in the Bundestag.
We, from Rostock, hope, that all of you will remember us, and our joint conference, with pleasure. In November 2018 the Georgian city Batumi celebrated its first sustainable development forum, may be a little bit influenced from long term cooperation between Rostock and Batumi, inspired also by the INTA’ Congress. If you have any requests do not hesitate to ask or invite us to dialogue, and share with us your ideas.
By Andreas Erb
Higher-order centre = Higher-order centre? Higher-order urban centres diverge. Some of them demand a new spatial category: the Regiopolis.
Some cities claim for themselves a new spatial category: the Regiopolis. The term denotes cities with a total population of more than 100,000 inhabitants that do not belong to a metropolis region but fulfil metropolitan functions for their surrounding areas. The discussion could result into raising the regional development profile.
The Bavarian town Kulmbach advertises with pretty timber-framed buildings, a pint of beer and a snack scenery in hearty atmosphere on its homepage. The town, among others, refers to its „food cluster” as even nationally relevant research institutions for the field nutrition have settled here. The Bavarian brewery and bakery museum as well as the museum of spices round this portfolio off, as the website states. The Hanseatic and University City of Rostock that views itself as being located along the axes of the metropoles Berlin – Copenhagen and Hamburg – Szczecin with most modern seaports and an airport as multimodal transportation node seems to be incomparable to Kulmbach. Anyhow, Rostock, with its 200,000 inhabitants, is nearly ten times bigger than the town in Upper Franconia. Still, both have something in common. Both are considered as higher-order centres according to the relevant regional development programs. Apparently, the term higher-order centre covers a wide definitional spectrum, within which different weightings are possible, depending on the specific federal state. Still, it is exactly this versatility of the term that may result into a situation where the previous spatial planning categorization does no longer meet the needs of the cities. This had been recognized in Rostock years ago. The city, as the biggest one in the State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, having more than twice as much inhabitant as the state capital Schwerin, does not fit into the pattern. Thus, it is considered as the prototype of a new term: the Regiopolis.
The term was originally developed for cities like Rostock in a research project implemented by the University of Kassel. It directly addresses this gap: It is about cities with a total population between 100,000 and 300,000 inhabitants that fulfil outstanding central location functions, but, simultaneously, are located quite solitarily in rural areas and do not belong to a metropolitan region. Still, the higher-order centres play a metropolitan role for the relevant region and function as social and cultural benchmark. They are the engine for economy, science, education and innovation. It turns out that some of these cities consider their concerns as underrepresented in spatial planning.
The Regipolis Network
About 30 of these regiopolises can be identified all over Germany. Apart from Rostock, the city of Trier is one of the driving forces of the idea to interlink such cities and, thus, increase the sensitivity for the regiopolis idea on national level. Rostock and Trier founded the German Regiopolis Network in 2016 as a strategic alliance that also involves Siegen, Bielefeld, Paderborn and Erfurt. Its main concern is to embed the regiopolis as a new regional development category into regional planning. However, crucial bases are still missing here: one of the shortfall is that the precise criteria for a Regiopolis and its practical implications still need to be distinctly defined. Thus, the related discussion might even become more intense. This could actually be suitable for scrutinizing the hitherto practical application of the central-locational system in our Republic and to raise the awareness that uniform nationwide, objective standards for categorizing cities are needed.
The advocates of the Regiopolis idea complain, amongst others, that strengthening the metropolis regions and turning the attention to rural areas as, for instance, with related funding focuses has resulted into neglecting the higher-order centres. At the same time, there are high innovation and growth potentials especially in these Regiopolises that are also relevant for the prosperity of the surrounding areas. Accordingly, Regiopolises could also be considered as rural area promotion instrument. Especially where the current debate on equal living conditions is concerned the targeted formation of Regiopolis regions could contribute to reducing imbalances within the Republic. The regiopolis network also demands a concept applicable for the federal territory that relates metropolises, regiopolises, higher-order, medium-order and base centres. The regiopolises shall serve as interface between metropolises and rural areas here, but also become linking nodes between metropolis regions. Traffic routes and infrastructures must be accordingly oriented to finally strengthen the networking between German cities and towns in general. The regiopolis idea has already started to bear fruits. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern‘s state spatial development program incorporated the regiopolis Rostock in 2016. Still, a clear definition of transferable functions and, thus, a certain practical relevance were missing here, too. The current update of the Bavarian state spatial development program categorized Würzburg, Regensburg and Ingolstadt as so-called „regiopolis centres“ for the first time. Here, it also remains to be seen what practical consequences derive from this. Anyway, yet one cannot talk in terms of nationwide, systematic application of this new spatial category yet.
"Regiopolises serve as references for rural areas, outside metropolis regions. It is important to me to uncover the specific challenges regiopolises are confronted with. We try to establish regiopolises as spatial planning category – and, thus, to targeted get federal and regional funding medium-term. In Trier, lead projects related to energy, health economy, housing construction and digitization are in the focus. We intend to exchange our corresponding experiences in the regiopolis network. Together with the colleagues from the regiopolis cities, we plan to present the regiopolis concept to all members of the Bundestag in Berlin in early 2019.
We are neither part of a metropolis region nor of rural areas, but centres and growth engines of our region. Paderborn founded the association „Regiopolis region Paderborn“, together with 30 towns, cities and municipalities and other protagonists in early 2018. This stems from the conviction that a city cannot be developed independently from its surrounding area – and vice versa. We aim at positioning the region as emancipated counterpart to metropolises. With the regiopolis network, we work on strengthening the regiopolis regions as concept and spatial category mainly towards federal and regional spatial development and funding institutions. We hope to enhance the understanding for the concerns of regiopolises as anchors within often shrinking rural regions.
As classical high-level centre of regional importance we compete in many respects with metropolises located at Rhein, Rhur and Main. Related examples are rail and road infrastructure decisions or location decisions for federal or EU research and development projects. The regiopolis status helps us to showcase our relevance towards state, federal and EU government and to fill the gap between rural and metropolitan development regarding the federal policy demand for equal living conditions. The regiopolis network offers he chance to jointly develop strategies. The network shall achieve that the term regiopolis is integrated into the German funding landscape.
There are many cities all over the world which are not located in a metropolis region and are still of major importance for their surrounding areas and take important related tasks. We want to achieve that the specifics of such cities are compiled in an own urban planning category as these are important drivers of the development in the relevant region. This is, amongst others, concerned with state funding instruments that shall also consider the special needs of this urban category. The Hanseatic City of Rostock is the formative municipality within a radius of some 200 kilometres. We assume many tasks and functions also for the surrounding municipalities. This role must be taken into consideration.
Regiopolises are important core centres of development and growth engines outside the European metropolis regions. With their specific infrastructure equipment they have a paramount role in the network of towns and cities, particularly with a view of the needed wide dissemination of innovation, creativity, culture and modernity. Thus, regiopolises need special attention by politics and spatial planning. Its specific infrastructures need specific promotion. As capital of the state, developing fair and congress location and ICE node, with its gateway function, Erfurt stands out among the regiopolises. Innovation and cultural functions are assigned in city twinning with Weimar and Jena.
Bielefeld as urban centre is growing. Thus, the region also grows closer together. To not fall behind in a comparison with metropolis areas, Bielefeld joined forces with ten adjacent municipalities to form one regiopolis region in 2016. This intermunicipal cooperation shall contribute to maintain a needs-oriented local range of services for all inhabitants. By enhancing synergies, we also create margins for a joint advancement of non-statutory services, such as regarding culture, sports or social issues. The partners of the German Regiopolis Network intend to strengthen the regiopolis as additional spatial planning category, especially in view of the grant policy.