26 May 2017

Planning for compact urban forms: local growth-management approaches and their evolution over time

Urban growth is a key issue for spatial planning as it influences urban patterns and disrupts open landscapes. To effectively steer urban growth towards compact urban forms, many growth-management policies have been developed over recent decades. However, few studies have assessed how municipal policy mixes have evolved over time. In our representative Swiss-wide survey, we evaluated the prevalence and the time of introduction of 18 policies. Our results indicate that large municipalities use a broad range of reinforcing policies over decades. In contrast, small municipalities mostly rely on conventional land-use regulations. The lack of innovative, incentive-based policies casts doubt on small municipalities' ability to effectively manage urban growth. However, our analyses reveal recent efforts by small municipalities to diversify approaches to growth management and adopt innovative policies. These efforts should be supported by guiding small municipalities in their policy choices, and providing support to those lacking planning capacity.