What about Metropolitan Strategies worldwide?

International roundtables and interviews with representatives from Europe, Latin America, North America, Asia, Africa and Middle Est countries from November 2012 to April 2013.

Within the context of the activities of the Community of Competence on Metropolisation and in response to requests from its members, INTA and Deltametropool Association are engaged in a worldwide comparison of Metropolitan Strategies through the ongoing Programme Metro in progress.

The overall purpose is to share experiences between the partners about successful planning and development processes at the metropolitan scale. Each partner is being part of a global exercise experimenting multiple innovative approaches while avoiding the risk of a single model of planning.

Urban development is going through changes: territorial widening from the district to the city, from the city to the agglomeration, from the agglomeration to the metropolitan area. How significant are the relations and the cooperation between territories; what is needed to optimize the established governance system? All these changes lead to new forms of urbanity, and urban patterns influenced by the global economy and the changing lifestyles.

Confronted with these changes and in search of economic prosperity, in different parts of the world a quest for new metropolitan strategies has been the outcome.

How can metropolitan development be optimised to support the most dynamic and innovative sectors of the economy? How can on one side, social and cultural policies such as housing and the provision of services, and on the other side, development of infrastructures, be used as instruments to shape a receptive environment? And how can a knowledge-based platform - a learning machine – be constructed to create a productive territory? Which projects and programs should be the outcome of such a process and how can they be put in practice?

How the metro strategy achieves true sustainable development in terms of ecology and social integration (jobs, education) and how the spatial planning meets these expectations? What is done to improve the capacity of the metropolitan actors to be engaged in a levelled field of collaboration – which is a condition for successful innovation?


In the metropolitan context, the question of regulation is posed in new terms. Due to its geographical fluidity and its soft hold, the metropolis produces unstable multiple and differentiated territorial scales. It also produces new categories of actors. Behind its fragments, the metropolis tries to reconstruct itself into a single image; behind the aggregation of individuals and communities, it rebuilds reticular and differentiated infra-or supra-territorialized forms of territorial loyalty and social structures together with economic, social, cultural, religious and political interests.

The composite and fluid structure of this new territorial dimension, the metropolitan scale, implies the acceptance by all stakeholders of clear development principles, a profound transformation of the organizational spheres of governance and a genuine democratic enlargement of the decision-making process. That implies also an attempt at deciding at which territorial level is common interest defined at the risk of abandoning the local forums.

In the Netherlands, the metropolitan authorities have started to reflect on the concept of the "Regions in Transition" asking “how are regional narratives conveyed? Regions should pick up on changes that are bringing about global trends and local initiatives and keep searching for the forces to be found, sometimes hidden, on their own territories".
In order to recognise development opportunities, actors in the region have to express their views and choices about the region’s future structure; this is the ‘regional narrative’: what local innovations are desirable and how to capture their potential?

In a majority of situation, the creation of the metropolitan areas rely on governance strategies and alliances among surrounding territories to achieve the objectives of resources management, urban quality or attractiveness. Creating networks of cities and agglomerations with their suburban territories, metropolises explore different patterns of alliance to implement policies and projects to enhance their development. These diverse modes of cooperation allow, depending on the case, to associate additional resources, to create mass effects, to define and manage the "values of the metropolis" that are the natural resources, water, energy, know-how, the driving forces for the economic activity or for the liveability of the territory.

At the other end of the spectrum, the strategy of the New York "region", as defined in 1996 in its 3rd regional plan, promotes large scale, industrial centres and the concentration of population rather than decentralized development. Critics pointed out that this results in windfall real estate profits for downtown interests; as someone quoted whimsically "the most important industry for the State of New Jersey is commuting to New York City". The effectiveness of this approach to regional planning, still inspiring many urban regions, has to be questioned particularly because of the infrastructure and energy required to sustain such concentration.

In a complex institutional landscape, marked by multiple levels of competence, territorial cooperation exist as "spaces" for debates, coordination and projects enabling public actors to overcome the institutional barriers, while maintaining their legitimacy at their level of competence.

Also arising in a context of urban growth is the question of territorial risks and vulnerabilities; in other words, where are the limits of the metropolisation process?

Deltametropool Association, through a series of lectures on “International perspectives”, investigated differences in the definition of metropolitan dimension and intends to bring answers to the question “Is the Netherlands prepared to compete with the growing metropolises around the world; and what could be a metropolitan strategy for the Netherlands?”  France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, and Scandinavian countries, to mention Europe only, are facing similar challenges: “these issues are not unique to Randstad Holland: the Flemish Diamond (Vlaamse Ruit) also struggles with bridging the gap between the need for shaping its metropolitan region on the one hand, and having a culture and society on the other that continually denies its necessity and appeal. In this sense, the Netherlands and Belgium seem to share a common feeling of apprehension towards the metropolis. From a planning perspective, government authorities are now faced with two options: should they facilitate these movements? Or should they refrain from any involvement?” (International Perspectives, Final Debate, March 2012)

Marc Baïetto, President of the Metropolitan area of Grenoble in France, questions and wonders about the size of his Metropolitan Region. "[...] every day each of us is brought to live in a territory which is not the one managed or administered of his City council. That is why politicians have built inter-municipal cooperative mechanisms. But are these inter-municipal spaces suitable or appropriated to our everyday lives? [...]”

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