GLP Member Research in the News

Are spatial planning objectives reflected in the evolution of urban landscape patterns?

Related GLP Member: Anna M. Hersperger

Sustainability 20179(8), 1279


The evaluation of spatial planning results, or outcomes, has been rather neglected by scholars and practitioners. The causes of this neglect are linked to the characteristics of the planning systems in use or difficulties in quantifying results. To advance the state of the art of outcome evaluation, this paper focuses on assessing the implementation of national spatial planning objectives in urban landscapes through the use of an evaluation framework, which makes use of spatially explicit information. The framework is built around four dimensions, which reflect the main domains of spatial planning: efficient built-up development, conservation of agricultural land, landscape preservation and human perception. Indicators that are capable of capturing landscape changes in both time and space are used to verify the degree of conformance between adopted objectives and actual development patterns. We make use of spatially explicit data, as well as assess whether and where landscape changes occurred, by integrating the framework into a multi-criteria analysis. In the present study, the framework is tested in two study areas located in Switzerland and Romania, while the results are interpreted from the perspective of spatial planning approaches in the two countries. The efficiency and utility of the framework are demonstrated by the ability to provide valuable information that facilitates improvement in the performance of planning processes, such as identifying where the implementation of objectives is less effective, and the domains of affected spatial planning. Our findings indicate that the distance between objectives and outcomes can be attributed to differences in countries’ spatial planning approaches, which should also be placed into the wider economic, institutional and legislative context. Our study provides valuable insights for the integration of time series of spatial data into the evaluation procedure.