Affiliates of the Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACE), working with colleagues from University of Applied Science (Hochschule für Technik), Stuttgart, Faculty of Architecture and Design, Department of Urban and Regional Planning and in particular Prof. Detlef Kurth, are studying the rise of the city-region of Stuttgart in Germany.
The city-region of Stuttgart (Germany) has been selected as case study as unlike many other urban agglomerations it features an institutionalised regional governance tier, giving the resident population a Regional Assembly made up of directly elected representatives. The political administrative unit of the Verband Region Stuttgart was created in 1994 with the specific responsibility to develop a regional land use plan and coordinate and run the regional public transit (light rail) system.
The Verband is home to a population of approximately 2.6 million. Although Stuttgart is the main city, only around one fifth of the Region’s population live there while many reside in several vibrant adjacent cities of 80-90k. Overall the region consists of 179 municipalities which range in size from Drackenstein with a population of 450, to Stuttgart with a population of 585,000 and covers an area of some 3650 square kilometres. The region is known as an economic powerhouse hosting the headquarters and production facilities of car manufacturers such as Mercedes Benz and Porsche as well as containing a cluster of innovative small and medium sized industries. Overall, the region fares comparatively better than others in respect to economic stability, employment figures and growth.
The current regional plan (2009) actively balances green open space preservation and enhancement with the demands for economic growth, infrastructure development and addressing housing needs. In addition, several individual municipalities in the region have policies on renewable energy and climate change (City of Esslingen a.N., Ludwigsburg) or child friendly urban development and sustainability (City of Stuttgart)
In November 2010, Prof Morgan and Andrea Frank visited Stuttgart to kick off a pilot study meeting with the Director of the Verband Region Stuttgart and several academics and planners. The study was progressed during a six week research during May/June 2011 visit by Andrea Frank with the generous support of a DAAD travel grant.
The aim of the visits was to facilitate preliminary research in preparation for applications to support longer-term research collaboration. The research, in particular explores the hypothesis that cooperative and regional governance in urban and land use planning can lead to more sustainable settlement structures, transport systems and enhanced quality of life while protecting the natural environment. In other words, while there is a regional land use and development plan in place to which municipalities have to adhere to, it is unclear whether the association (the Verband) has managed to increase the region’s environmental, social and ecological sustainability to any significant or greater extent than regions without a coordinated planning approach and governance body.
The purpose of the research visit was to develop a better understanding of the planning and governance system(s) in place in the city region and how planners from the different independent municipalities interact with the system and the Verband. For example, do local planners feel that the cooperation is worthwhile and beneficial for their municipalities and the region? To shed light on some of these issues, a range of interviews were conducted with representatives from the VRS, academics, planners and mayors of the municipalities which are part of the Verband Region Stuttgart.
The findings from the research interviews will inform a working paper evaluating the VRS as a form of regional governance. The paper is a joint piece of research with Prof. Kevin Morgan and is planned to be completed in autumn 2011. A copy of the working paper will be made available through this page.