Main research question
How can the ecosystem services of open space, such as food production and biodiversity, be successfully safeguarded? How can the attractiveness of a region - its natural heritage - be strengthened? How can the (qualitative) open space in peri-urban areas (which is under pressure from urban expansion) be protected, while at the same time offering opportunities for a sustainable regional economy-potential? These questions are central to the PROSPERA project, an interregional cooperation project for knowledge and experience exchange on sustainable development of peri-urban areas. The 7 project partners involved from 5 EU countries (IT-EL-SE-BE-HU) are putting their weight behind three levers that allow a shift from traditional management in which urban and rural are seen as opposites, to a new management in which protection of natural heritage is a basis for economic development in peri-urban areas. These levers are: 1. Smart governance 2. Ecological (and local) value chains and 3. Sustainable public-private partnerships.
ILVO is responsible for the methodological underpinning and guidance in the first phase of the project. On the basis of study visits and knowledge exchange sessions, a process of interregional learning is set up. Relevant stakeholders in the 5 regions are identified and involved in the process. Together with them, the project partners then map the main challenges and at least 15 inspiring cases per region. On this basis, each region draws up an action plan with concrete policy instruments. In the second phase of the project, the action plans are effectively implemented in the regions. The role of ILVO is more limited in that phase.
The quality of open space in areas around cities is under pressure. This project focuses on medium-sized cities. They are confronted with specific challenges and do not have the economies of scale or budgets that large central cities do have in their search for solutions. By mapping out the challenges and successful cases in 5 European regions and comparing them with each other, the project partners can distil policy recommendations for rural development which are (also) relevant for Flanders.
The participating regions are the municipality of Reggio Emilia (IT), the city of Ghent (BE), the municipality of Aristoteli Chalkidikis (GR), EDC Debrecen Centre for urban and economic development (HU), and the municipality of Varberg (SE).