How can a small country like the Grand Duchy that is an economic driving force and host country to thousands of expats and cross-border workers ensure growth in terms of quality and sustainability? How will we manage to live together in the decades to come? These are the questions that form the basis for one of the Grand Duchy's most ambitious projects: drawing up guideline sector plans to ensure sustainable regional planning.
A country facing a range of challenges
The Grand Duchy is perhaps small in geographical terms, but it is one of the biggest in terms of economic activity. Indeed the Eurostat Regional Yearbook 2017 lists the Grand Duchy as the second wealthiest region in Europe, with a GDP well above that of its neighbours. That makes the country a real driving force for employment, with one of Europe's lowest unemployment rates (5.5% in June 2018) and growth in almost every sector of the economy.
The situation brings its own challenges: 180,000 cross-border workers work in the Grand Duchy, i.e. almost one third of the total population, which takes its toll on the road network and public transport. Growth in the population also produces greater demand for housing, resulting in rocketing prices and the danger of urban sprawl.
Thus in order to prevent a substantial drop in the quality of life in the Grand Duchy, four sector plans have been drawn up in order to ensure a good distribution of residential areas and areas of economic activity and take a fresh look at mobility and protecting the country's natural heritage:
- housing – the Grand Duchy is a country that welcomes immigrants, and its population is increasing at an average annual rate of 2.34% (2010 – 2017);
- transport – the very substantial growth of both the economy and the population poses new challenges for the road network that must be resolved;
- economic activity areas – to ensure a rational use of the land and economic development in the most appropriate places;
- landscapes – faced with these developments, it is important to ensure the active protection of rural areas and the environment, to protect the country's natural heritage.
The draft sector plans are currently at the end of the public consultation stage: the municipalities have until 16 September to draw up their opinions on the basis of comments made by members of the public. The Ministry will then analyse these opinions, with the possibility of amending the drafts.
The Housing Sector Plan
The aim of the Housing Sector Plan is to achieve a distribution of the population in the most appropriate parts of the country (good connections and proximity to places of work), while at the same time ensuring the best possible living conditions for residents. The plan therefore defines plots of land where housing should be created, and have been reserved for that purpose. To achieve this, the plan promotes the development of existing urban centres and the redevelopment of industrial wasteland.
The Transport Sector Plan
The Transport Sector Plan seeks to reorganise the way we travel within the Grand Duchy, in terms of both regional development (definition of corridors and areas to be devoted to means of transport) and the means of transport used (substantial increase in the number of journeys using sustainable means of transport).
The plan defines 81 transport infrastructure projects to be carried out in the next few years: projects involving individual mobility, public transport and gentle mobility (cyclists and pedestrians).
The Economic Activity Areas Sector Plan
Distributing economic activities throughout the country efficiently is one of the challenges the Grand Duchy has to face. The aim of the plan is to avoid an overload in selected areas and to regroup sector-based or specific activities.
To achieve this, the plan defines the plots of land intended for use as activity areas according to a number of criteria, including:
- ease of access, for the companies' employees as much as for suppliers;
- integration in the local environment and landscape;
- potential for expansion.
The Landscapes Sector Plan
The Landscapes Sector Plan is the final link in the chain of sector plans. The aim of the plan is to retain the major landscapes ensembles and biological diversity. This is essential in order to ensure a quality of life that is among the best in Europe: The proportion of built-up land in the Grand Duchy increased from 3% of the country's total area in 1972 to 10% in 2016. The plan makes provision for three tools:
- areas for preserving major landscape ensembles;
- inter-urban green areas;
- green breaks.
(Article written by the editorial team of the portal 'www.luxembourg.lu')