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Innovations of space

Prof. Jacek Zaucha

j.zaucha@instytut-rozwoju.org

Apart from works on the National Development Strategy for 2007-2015 and the National Strategic Reference Framework 2007-2013, the National Spatial Development Concept is one of the largest and most challenging undertakings associated with spatial development and improvement of the quality of strategic planning in Poland. This concept is prepared in Poland irregularly, depending on need. There is no statutory obligation to examine its relevance and the legislation does not specify the horizon of its duration. The Polish National Spatial Arrangement Policy was adopted by Parliament in 2001 and has been in force since then. The Policy was a result of works carried out over approximately fifteen years. Almost immediately, however, it became obsolete at least at the level of realization. This is because it did not take into account the consequences of two important changes that occurred in Poland in 1999 and 2004: appointing self-governing voivodships and joining the EU.


The first step in preparation of the NSDC for the years 2009 -2030 was developing by the Ministry of regional development "Theses and Assumptions to for the NSDC" by the Ministry of regional development. It contained the basic assumptions of ideas on how to develop the document. After the Government accepted "Theses and Assumptions for the NSDC", it became the basis for further works on the Concept.


An implementation team was established to work on the NSDC. It included representatives of ministries, whose responsibilities have a significant relationship with land management (Ministries of Regional Development, Construction - now Infrastructure, Transport, Interior and Administration, Environment, Marine Economy, National Defence, Economy, Agriculture and Rural Development) and four regional representatives of the regions. This team was subsequently expanded to include representatives of a further 10 ministries and the CSO. The National Spatial Planning Council - an advisory body for the Prime Minister - participated in the preparation of the NSDC document as a consultative body.

A team of experts led by prof. Piotr Korcelli form the Polish Academy of Sciences prepared the draft of the Concept. The team established a collaboration with a number of researchers interested in spatial issues. The product of this collaboration were more than 40 expert evaluations. These were later used to prepare an expert draft of the National Spatial Development Concept, finalised in December 2008. This project became the basis for wide public consultation, carried out in 2009, which consisted of seminars in each voivodeship as well as several thematic conferences. During these meetings the Ministry of Regional Development received 1,600 comments. After analysing them in the summer and autumn 2009 a government draft of the National Spatial Development Concept was prepared, which will again undergo public consultation. It is expected that this project will be ready for debate in the first part of 2010.


The results of the ongoing worldwide debate on the change of the paradigm of regional and spatial policy provide valuable information on what characteristics  this document should have in order to be considered up-to-date  and able to meet contemporary challenges.

  1. Linking the issues of regional and spatial policy. This is a postulate formulated by both the OECD and the EU. Firstly, it indicates the need for development of the National Spatial Developement Concept in connection with the National Regional Development Strategy and especially and in particular the requirement of treating the NSDC as an inherent part of the long term development strategy of the country. The implementation of the NSDC should proceed by using the instruments of regional policy, or at least point to the spatial issues necessary to be resolved using these instruments. At the same time the implementation of the NSDC should be an integral part of a larger long-term mechanism to support the development of Poland.
  2. A correction of the vision of shaping the spatial structure of the country. Regarding the National Spatial Arrangement Policy, which highlighted the role of development bands progressing from the west and subordinated to the requirements of transit through Poland’s main communication network, the new NSDC should pay more attention to the current and future exogenous potential of Polish territory and their combination, as advocated by the EU, OECD and the World Bank. The development of the country should be stimulated by creating a network of the largest cities in Poland- Warsaw, Cracow, the Upper-Silesian conurbation, Wroclaw, Poznan, Lodz and Gdansk / Sopot / Gdynia (covering also the other important centres such as Bydgoszcz and Torun, Szczecin and Lublin) connected by efficient multimodal infrastructure systems which form an interdependent open system. The inter-connection of the major Polish cities will encourage the creation of synergy effects and the development of high rank activities- in terms of functions and quality of spatial development gaining a competitive position in regional networks of the European metropolitan centres. The Metropolitan Area Network (such as postulated by the OECD) has the greatest chance to produce an economic structure based on knowledge in Poland. The network is also able to protect Poland against global threats and challenges such as globalization and negative demographic changes. Other major urban centers located outside the metropolitan network must be linked to the network area by high quality infrastructure. Furthermore, they need to be provided with additional support of spatial and regional policies for the development of their endogenous potentials. The metropolis should also be connected to sub-regional centres through a system of functional areas in accordance with the imperative of territorial cohesion.
  3. New higher quality methods in the recognition of environmental issues. Both the OECD analyses and the EU experience has shown the need for taking into account the principle of sustainable development in the land-use planning strategies. This is especially important in the context of climate change. This principle was also applied in the previous Concept but it now requires a new interpretation. Spatial order must become an inherent feature of sustainable development. Its absence may cause a defeat of Polish long-term development, both in relation to the major cities as well as attractive tourist regions or small towns and peripheral centres, which are competitive by their quality of cultural landscapes. The new National Spatial Development Concept should manifest the spatial order, among others [...] the creation of functional, planning areas around large cities (in order to prevent uncontrolled „spillage” of cities), the introduction of specific architectural and landscape standards in the culturally valuable areas and finally preventing building on floodplains.
  1. Modern treatment of rural areas. In the National Spatial Development Concept it is essential to abandon the diagrammatic approach to rural areas. Those rural areas located in functional areas of large cities should not be a subject to the rural development policy, and their functioning should be harmonized within the wider area to which they are linked. In the case of remaining rural areas it is essential to ensure standards of accessibility to social services, depending on the types of space, in accordance with the requirement of territorial cohesion.
  2. Territorial scope expanded by Poland’s economic zone in the sea. Until recently, maritime space in most European countries operated outside the national system of planning and the debate concerning it focused mainly on the excessive use of living resources and environmental degradation. The perception of maritime space as relatively abundant and unburdened with the stigma of spatial conflicts is slowly changing. In Poland, maritime space was not included in the documents of strategic planning relating to the country, and its use was based on a system of permits and concessions granted on an ad hoc basis. In the framework of the new National Spatial Development Concept, Polish sea area should be recognized as an important and suboptimally used endogenous potential in accordance with the spirit of the renewed EU Territorial Agenda. In fact Polish maritime space is not only exploited less intensively than land space, but also less than the aquatic space of other countries (Zaucha 2009). As the space is currently used for various functions and the anthropogenic pressure is increasing, it is a challenge (such as maintenance of spatial order at sea, the integration of sea and land planning) and also an opportunity for the spatial policy of the country (Zaucha 2009a).
  3. Expanded range of cross-border interactions on land and sea. In conditions of deepening European integration, borders between the Member States of the European Community have become much more permeable and the development in neighbouring states is of high significance for Polish spatial management. Clusters or network connections may have a cross-border nature, based on the conclusions form OECD and the EU analyses. The National Spatial Development Concept cannot therefore be limited to the analysis of spatial phenomena only within Polish territory. On the contrary, the new Concept should be much more efficient in taking up cross-border problems connected with space, that occur along the Polish borders with other EU Member States. Further, these problems concern the external borders of the European Union, where the situation requires particular attention mainly because of the risk of peripheralization connected with the limited possibilities to start the necessary instrumentation as well as the disparate planning systems on both sides of the border.
  4. Confronting the subject of problem areas of national importance. Previously binding regulations from 1994, which concerned spatial planning of national importance, did not require the determination of a list and scope of problem areas. The current Concept of National Spatial Planning Policy has identified seven areas requiring "selective restructuring policy." However, the boundaries of some areas remained blurred, and the extent of the territory of these problem areas covered about 50% of the country. According to the analyses of the OECD, the National Spatial Development Concept should indicate the necessity of an integrated (comprehensive) approach to regional development of Eastern Poland. In line with the demands of the World Bank, territories which may constitute a threat to the development of the EU as a whole and require not only the support of national authorities but also of the European Commission, should also be identified as national problem areas.  The other problem areas of national importance, such as floodplains, or the functional areas of large cities should be presented as a regional or inter-voivodship problem areas.
  5. Introducing/using networking in preparing the Concept. The works conducted on the National Spatial Development Concept should be characterized by a very high level of socialization of the entire process, going significantly beyond the formal requirements of the act. This need is indicated by the OECD and the EU experiences. The process should have an authentic, rather than formal character, in order to ensure the impact of debate on the shaping of the document records. Consequently, foundations will be prepared for the implementation of the National Spatial Development Concept at the level of voivodeship, using the policies of individual ministries. What is more, an awareness concerning the role of pro-development of macro spatial planning will arise.
  6. References to Plans of Spatial Development of voivodships. National Spatial Arrangement Policy did not contain any direct references to the Plans of Spatial Development of voivodships, neither general (for all voivodships) nor specific (for individual regions). Certainly, some applications for Plans of Spatial Development of voivodships could be formulated on the basis of the whole National Spatial Arrangement Policy, but in general they were not explicitly addressed to local governments. This was contradictory to the postulate of the networking development (OECD). Therefore, the need to formulate a set of general arrangements and recommendations addressed to all the Plans of Spatial Development of voivodships and a juxtaposition of the individual (detailed) arrangements and recommendations to each of the sixteen voivodships should be taken into account in the works on the National Spatial Development Concept. It concerns, among others, sectioning off functional areas of cities as well as voivodeship and inter-voivodeship problem areas.
  7. Transition from postulative to decision-making entries. In comparison with the traditional (indicative) approaches of national spatial policy, the  National Spatial Development Concept should treat the national spatial policy as a means of implementing strategic development objectives, which was demonstrated by the OECD analyses. Consequently, the strategic dimension of the National Spatial Development Concept must be increased by a necessary operational aspect and a change of entries for decision-making expressions such as "will be" or "will be taken" instead of postulative ones such as "should be", etc.
  8. Change of the approach concerning the time horizon. With the inclusion of the National Spatial Development Concept into the system of the National Development Policy (OECD's demand) has resulted in the need for carrying the development projects out in phases. Previous documents did not indicate the temporal dimension of envisaged actions and investments. Thus the documents took account of various task based on legitimate assumptions, which were, however, unaffordable for the national economy. The National Spatial Development Concept should therefore specify not only the spatial development of the country until 2030 or even further but also determine an interim state, expected in the year of completion of the EU financial perspectives whenever it is possible and substantially relevant. The principal idea of extending the time horizon of the concept twice triggers the need for updating the document in intervals of several years.
  9. Proposals for monitoring and evaluation of spatial processes and the National Spatial Development Concept. The previous National Spatial Arrangement Policy contained the assumptions of the Geographic Information System Organisation, which allowed for the creation of information bases for spatial policy. However, this document did not contain any information about the measure system. Hence, its impact on sectoral policies was limited. Due to the inclusion of the National Spatial Development Concept into the network of National Development Policies, the new concept is require to include a set of measures, each corresponding to the objectives and activities, which is a prerequisite for effective monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the Concept.
  10. Creation of a platform for substantive dialogue in the framework of the European Union. The National Spatial Arrangement Policy treated relations with the European Union and its Member States from the position of a potential candidate country, located in a territorial system which was external to the Community. At the same time the spatial consequences of Polish accession were greatly underestimated, which fundamentally changed the conditions of the National Spatial Arrangement Policy since 2004. An ongoing spatial debate of both political and methodological nature is being held at the EU level. In recent years, there has been a major reevaluation for the benefit of territorial issues within the European Community. The National Spatial Development Concept must allow for a definition of the necessary input of Poland into the pan-European concepts and visions as well as the definition of strategic Polish interests in the European area.

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  • Tagi:

    Narodowe Strategiczne Ramy Odniesienia, Unia Europejska, spójność terytorialna, rozwój przestrzenny

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