The process: The URBANGUARD project aimed to facilitate the incorporation of urban sustainability indicators into the spatial planning process in Cyprus. These indicators will mainly be used by planners and authorities responsible for preparing and reviewing Development Plans, by local administrators, stakeholder organisations and other special interest groups participating in the plan review process, as well as by the wider public when filing objections against published Development Plans. This will in turn improve procedures that enable a more productive form of public participation and a higher level of governance, through which decision-makers can be held responsible for their choices. The process also involved the creation of the necessary capabilities and system tools for the monitoring and reporting of these indicators, as well as their application within the urban policy decision-making process.
Project management: The beneficiary was the Department of Town Planning and Housing (DTPH) and the project was implemented in Cyprus, with the help of partners from Greece (EAPAX SA) and Belgium (ADD asbl), as well as local partners from the private sector (Atlantis Consulting Cyprus Ltd; and ALA Planning Partnership). The project was led by DTPH through a coordinating officer, who undertook the overall management of the project, including the control of task implementation, liaison with the European Commission and monitoring experts, as well as report preparation and financial management. Representatives of each partner organisation were assigned as leaders for each of the ten tasks.
Technical and commercial application: The URBANGUARD tool is a valuable instrument for planning analysis and can provide substantial help to planners, thus contributing to the improvement of current planning processes. The tool can be used in plan preparation and can be further developed to satisfy specific spatial planning needs for applications in the public and private sectors. Furthermore, the use of sustainability indicators can play a key role in assisting planners and other planning process stakeholders to evaluate urban development issues and promote the implementation of sustainable policies. The selected set of indicators addresses a wide range of urban development issues, incorporating the spatial dimension of social, economic and environmental parameters.
URBANGUARD PROJECT RESULTS ()
The key achievements of the project, as they relate to the schedule of the agreed proposal, include:
Acquisition of knowledge on indicator applications: A countrywide study of current urban policies, indicator usage and data collection practices, was first undertaken. Through the combination of a series of consultation rounds with urban policy stakeholders in order to assess their needs and expectations, and competent government services in order to collect information on data requirements and availability, as well as their internal capacity for indicator assessment and application, this exercise provided a solid background for selecting a suitable set of indicators. Research on EU and international indicator applications complemented this preparatory phase of the project.
Development of a set of national sustainability indicators: A set of indicators considered suitable for monitoring the implementation of spatial planning policies and objectives in the urban areas of Cyprus was then selected. The indicators selected concentrate on assessing natural resource and heritage management sustainability, quality of life and environmental protection, while at the same time provide data useful in making informed planning policy decisions. The project beneficiary has achieved a desirable degree of consensus and cooperation between government bodies, local authorities and other urban policy stakeholders, based on careful analysis of each organisation’s capabilities in providing information, as well as their needs to obtain information relevant to their areas of competence.
Creation of the URBANGUARD planning analysis tool: The third key achievement concerned the development of a GIS-based tool for the monitoring and assessment of the selected indicators. The system was developed between June and September 2006, when it was submitted to the project team and was subsequently populated with data and maps. As a result, all required maps and available data for the pilot study area were entered by the end of this stage.
Implementation of a pilot test of the URBANGUARD system: The pilot implementation was successfully completed by December 2006, providing information for the area under examination. At the same time, it has proved particularly valuable in the evaluation of the applicability and usefulness of the selected indicators and the reformulation of methodology sheets according to the gained experience. Some indicators were thus altogether removed, as their assessment was not feasible or could not be foreseen to be feasible in the near future, while others were modified in order to better suit the purpose for which they were designed in accordance with data availability.
Transfer of skills to urban policy stakeholders: The project also resulted in valuable training and capacity building between the local partners through the transfer of experiences from European partners, their direct involvement in selecting indicators and drafting methodology sheets, their participation in training exercises and experiences gained from the pilot implementation. In addition, the project resulted in the training and capacity building of stakeholders with regard to the concept of sustainability, the application of indicators and the use of the planning tool developed. These were achieved through several information events and workshops organised by the project team, targeting personnel from the beneficiary organisation, other government bodies, local authorities and other stakeholders.
Production of the URBANGUARD system guide: A guide to the use of the URBANGUARD indicator methodology sheets and GIS tool has been elaborated as a key deliverable of the project. It is intended to be used as a manual for the future implementation of the URBANGUARD system in the monitoring process for Development Plans in the urban areas of Cyprus.
Overall assessment of the project ()
Considering both its implementation and expected long term benefits, the project can be assessed as particularly successful.
Comparison of results against project objectives
The main objective of the project was to introduce the appropriate urban sustainability indicators into the planning system of Cyprus. In addition, the development of a new planning tool aimed to assist planners and planning process stakeholders in the evaluation of urban development trends and the promotion of sustainable spatial policy implementation. As such, the completion of the project has allowed these objectives to be achieved. The planning tool developed will allow a more efficient and effective monitoring of the sustainability of Development Plans, while it will enable decision makers to evaluate proposals and suggestions for plan revision with concrete criteria, based on solidly documented sustainability factors. In summary, the main objectives achieved include the building of capacity and awareness within public and local authorities, the selection and widespread acceptance of 100 indicators to be used in the assessment of urban policy, the design and development of the URBANGUARD GIS-based planning tool, the elaboration of data availability, feasibility of assessment, data sources and processing methods for each of the selected indicators, the overview assessment of the sustainability of urban development at the selected pilot area, and the recommendation of future actions to facilitate the systematic implementation of the URBANGUARD tool.
Effectiveness of dissemination activities
The dissemination plan included several awareness raising and training events, which aimed to prepare planning process stakeholders in:
· Becoming familiar with the concept of sustainability with regard to spatial planning and the territorial aspects of urban development
· Understanding the nature and use of indicators
· Reading and applying methodology sheets and metadata forms
· Evaluating and interpreting indicator information
· Entering data, viewing maps and results, and exporting reports from the URBANGUARD tool
In addition to training workshops, dissemination activities also included the construction of a web site with descriptions of the project, its results and the URBANGUARD tool, providing an access point to interested parties worldwide; the preparation of publications and brochures for dissemination to stakeholders and the general public; as well as the organisation of a conference and information day, attended by one hundred planning process stakeholders and other participants including planning professionals, environmentalists and decision-makers, who were invited to learn about the project, its achievements and the GIS tool. These dissemination facilities were successful not only in informing the stakeholders but also in achieving general consensus on the use of URBANGUARD tool as well as acceptance of the selected sustainability indicators.
Benefits and long term sustainability
The principal and immediate benefits expected from the implementation of the URBANGUARD system concern its role as a catalyst for the incorporation of transparent sustainability parameters into the spatial planning process. Indeed, the developed system of indicators and associated tool, the experience and awareness-raising derived from the project and the multitude of opportunities to consult with public and local authorities, as well as other planning process stakeholders, have improved both the capacity and commitment of the Department of Town Planning and Housing to implement sustainability assessment indicators. During its development, the project was primarily concerned with capacity building and thus no direct impacts on the environment have resulted at this early stage of its lifetime. However, significant long-term sustainability benefits are foreseen to be achieved through the ongoing application of the URBANGUARD tool, which aspires to provide a driving force towards sustainable spatial development. Given the commitment towards this achievement and the wide acceptance of the URBANGUARD tool within other public and local authorities, its continued application will have significant positive environmental and social benefits.