This paper stresses the apparent “family resemblance” of a variety of integrated programmes focusing on spatial development.
Integrated local actions have been promoted in several fields in the last ten years. Actually, a strong impetus towards innovating urban and regional policies has been witnessed during the last decade, both at local and at strategic level.
Innovation has resulted from different attempts in different fields. A survey should include at least: some European Union initiatives, such as Urban for regeneration and Leader for agriculture; subsequent and progressively more sophisticated versions of the national urban renewal programme (Pru, Priu and Cdq); the agreements devised by “Patti territoriali” in the framework of the national “negotiated” programming fostering local development, later assumed by the EU as well as Pacts for employment; and finally the “strategic vision” aimed to amalgamate locally the actions envisaged by the Community Support Framework.
More precisely, two main strands seem in one way or another to have been brought together: the partnership for local development, and the mix of different functional actions fostered by programmes for the renewal of urban downgraded areas, yet often expanding to wider aims. Subsequent generations of such programmes have in fact elaborated upon the same integrated approach, whose last offspring are the Sustainable Development Schemes (Prusst, Programmi di recupero urbano e sviluppo sostenibile del territorio) on the one hand, and the Local actions for spatial development (Pit, Programmi integrati territoriali) on the other.
Thus several programmes have fostered a variety of aims maintaining the same approach and moreover spreading actions over the same area. Probably because of these two reasons, the “family groups” were brought together and mingled.
A few common features may possibly be detected: a) all the programmes are locally bounded actions increasingly concerned with the local development and employment issues; b) they foster a “vision” of spatial development for the whole area, the idea of “territorio” implying community, environment and the local heritage as well; c) intended initially as a group of detached measures, some have progressed toward compound social and economic features; d) dealing with the implementation process seems to trigger an embryo co-operation between local authorities and recently powerful regions.
Such programmes have envisaged a variety of innovating actions so far, yet they are not necessarily new. Indeed, the aim of integrating spatial development policies dates back to post war times, standing out as a landmark in the public policy landscape of the mid-century. Such an evolutionary change has brought together severed traditions in distant fields such as infrastructure, economic development, environment and social welfare. The real questions are thus: how close have they come, what is the “recipe” of such integration, and what is the quality?
It must be admitted that programmes seldom went further than a shallow blend of functional measures, and did not overcome what may be called the functional limit of integration. Development projects of the ‘50s for instance were mainly a one-sector, one-actor mix of actions. International agencies insisted on concentrating on a single activity providing supposedly beneficial one-sided shocks to the entire economy.
However, a more integrated approach did sometimes crop up in the framework of the national economic development programme for the South; for instance, some integrated actions tried out after World War II targeted on housing, health and education, strongly influenced by a peculiar mixture of Italian historicism and US regionalism. As geographical patterns are formed by history, the matching up between society and environment moulded the whole territory. In turn, such ideology maintained that its structural features offered a basis for a comprehensive strategy of spatial development.
A second strand may be traced back to the 70s, to the growing awareness that regional spatial frameworks were affecting the outcome of the economic measures taken for the development of the South. To replace the budgetary style of programming, a complex of incentives and local agreement procedures were devised, tools to be generalised later in the 90s. However, those first attempts did not overcome the functional limit already shown. Since then, a turn in strategy fostered a more negotiated approach and a strengthened effectiveness.
The chance to be effective is actually spread over the great variety of initiatives encompassed by any single programme: an exceedingly high variety -as has sometimes been remarked- justified however by a peculiar process of “generating projects”. However, a plurality of projects does not necessarily vie against the single vision behind the programme. On the contrary, dualism is a common feature of such programmes: a rigid envisioning level selects priorities and partnership; a flexible design level allows projects to be nurtured and the shortcomings occurring in the implementation process to be countered.
Such federalist and resilient programmes may well be differentiated by contents and purposes even if quite similar in their financial resources and procedures. Actually, similar schemes are operating for urban renewal, improvement of the infrastructure network, preservation of the environment, local and sustainable development, etc.
The acknowledged mix has a double function: coping with local features as well as dealing with operational weaknesses. Beyond the variety of functions, however, also the spatial effects of the programmes are highly differentiated. As in other public policies, spatial effects depend on a variety of “territorial concepts”, which organise the correspondence of methods and aims.
Integrated programmes such as Urban combine several territorial concepts: the zoning of areas by functions, in order to delimit areas eligible for financial support and to determine the application of territorialized policies: the improvement of basic infrastructures, facilities and public services; the development of synergies to establish functional interdependencies among policies; the differentiation of policies, measures and technical assistance on the basis of specific territorial criteria.
However the logic of spatial effects is sometimes vague. In less than five years, about 1,600 actions have been laid down–of different dimension and scope- promising a huge investment of public resources (about 78 billion euros). The number of actions does indeed matter. An inflated style of programming raises a double issue: an excess of technicalities in the targeting of areas; a lack of capacity by agencies to gradually adjust to areas and actions.
Elsewhere the new style of programming is becoming tricky due to either the number of single actions, or the small size of most of them (in France the “politique de la ville” alone accounts formore than 2.500 actions).
As a consequence, it may be impossible to make out the whole picture, and the resulting jigsaw seems in any case to lack the due “democratic accountability”.
These somewhat unintelligible outcomes question the adequacy of local actions to match policy aims. It is an important question, yet one that cannot be met purely on theoretical grounds. If new programmes join a number of others targeting the same “spot” area -or neighbouring areas-, the issue arises of coordinating such actions. On the one side, a spatial development framework is needed to direct local actions, as the French reform of local planning seems to indicate; on the other, an “agreed vision” is required in order to underpin the framework.
As known, these double requirements are anything but easy to uphold. Particularly, difficulties are apparent when and where local authorities are weak, which is likely to happen for instance in southern regions. However, regeneration programmes (such as the Community Initiative Urban and some other national schemes in France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands) present a few unique features. They in fact assume a precise representation of the issues to be addressed, and a corresponding model of action. These two conjectures actually make a difference compared with other less targeted integrated programmes.
The representation tells us a story of the fracture in social cohesion that occurred at the end of the 70s, due to the superimposing of the unemployment and immigration issues, social exclusion and spatial unevenness being the more apparent results.
The model of action combines structural and contingent features in a multidimensional framework intended to offset situations stemming from a variety of causal factors. It is a participatory model since it was conceived, designed and implemented in participation with the stakeholders. Partnership is chosen not only for reasons of effectiveness, but also to mobilise local resources, to involve users, and to identify collectively the causes of social exclusion.
Falsifiable presumptions, and presumptions often argued for and against in other contexts. Yet logically necessary for the relevant uses of local action, as possibly happened with Urban.
Other integrated programmes have cared less about matching the representation and the model of action. When the first is ritual and not relevant, as possibly in experimenting with the Pit, the “agreed” vision tends to be weak, and the territorial criteria less coherent.
In conclusion, it has been maintained that two common features of integrated local policies are variety and integration, delimiting a vast field of experimentation bringing together previously separate sectors of public actions. Such integration goes well beyond the establishment of functional interdependencies among sector policies, as anticipated by early development policies. A practice of flexible integration, and not a completely different model, is instead emerging from the number and variety of cases.