Sustainable development of alpine open spaces by enhancing spatial planning governance

Workshop protocol

Local workshops in each of the six pilot sites will collect current governance and spatial planning approaches for open spaces at local level. At the same time, these stakeholder consultations will reveal gaps and concrete problems in the implementation of open spaces.

With the collected information of the before mentioned spatial planning approaches and planning gaps, transferable methods will be sought in transnational workshops. It is intended to obtain a matchmaking between existing spatial planning models at the alpine level and local situations. The guiding question here is how spatial planning for open spaces can be harmonised between local administrations within the selected cross-border areas. The aim is to develop an implementation strategy with concrete proposals to improve the pilot areas’ situation for safeguarding of open spaces.

The before mentioned workshop – round is strongly connected with cross-border workshops to enlarge the connectivity among stakeholders and to make sure that the local and cross border planning approaches are complementary. The transfer of the local strategies at a broader area level will be the focal point of this discussion.

First workshop round

1. Berchtesgadener Land

In this pilot area, there comes a high pressure from the development of new commercial and settlement areas, as well as a high amount of tourist activities. Quantitative loss of agricultural and recreational areas leads to a structural and qualitative loss of open spaces. The intermunicipal planning in the region could be reactivated and improved. In this region, there is no binding coordination on settlement development at district level. Additionally, there is a lack of open space planning, to connect the southern part to the northern part of the district. For the second round of the workshops, instruments for the long-term protection of agricultural land based on a soil fertility index, intercommunal urban development plans and a regional landscape plan were proposed.

2. Tennengau

The strongest pressure comes from the expansion and settlement development of the city of Salzburg. The second type of pressure comes from the energy sector. There is an increased awareness of the climate crisis, which means that more renewable energy, such as solar panels, is being used. For there reasons, agricultural land is highly under pressure. The same applies to valuable ecological and recreational areas on the valley bottom, which are fragmented. In the pilot areas there is a lack of studies and resources for open space planning. Only vague objectives are made in the State Development Program and in the Regional Program. Ecological green space corridors left in the valley. Based on these results, a landscape program on federal state level with a zoning for open spaces, a revision of the regional program with multifunctional priority areas and regulations for renewable energy infrastructure were proposed as possible solutions in the second workshop.

3. Prealpi Giulie

In the pilot area of Prealpi Giulie the decline of agricultural land and the land abandonment are the strongest pressures for the agricultural land and the cultural landscape. Forest is returning in an unregulated way and semi-natural touristic places disappear. The region lacks management and planning resources. There is a strong need for a cadastral reform and regional and intermunicipal planning could be strengthened.

4. Upper Soča Valley

In the Upper Soča Valley high pressure comes from tourist activities and settlements. Dispersed settlements are misused for secondary homes and open spaces are being fragmented by tourist activities, which influences the quality of natural resources. The area lacks studies and management plans outside protected areas. Too many tasks are at municipality level and natural resources management is too weak. To intervene, secondary homes should be limited strictly. Further a management and guidance of tourism visitors should be implemented. To solve the conflicts between the different sectors, a regional spatial development plan could be elaborated, clearing up different intentions and interests.

5. Mont Blanc - Auvergne – Rhône Alpes

Main pressure is coming from the touristic use in this pilot area. Additional to this, overgrowing of agricultural land brings invasive species. Wetlands, meadows and valuable agricultural areas are under a high pressure. Conflicts between different sectors and lack of dialogue between the sectors are a big problem in this area. Also, the understanding of open space functions is very limited. To resolve these issues, the SCOT (Schéma de Cohérence Territorial) must be seen as a territorial project and imposed on land use planning issues. Additionally, new zoning for protected open spaces, development zones and touristic infrastructures should be incorporated in the SCOT.

6. Upper Aosta Valley

Also, in the Upper Aosta Valley there is a high pressure form touristic uses on the natural landscape, glaciers and protected areas. The quality of agricultural areas suffers from land abandonment and a high land property fragmentation. This is also related to the protection function of open spaces. Protective landscapes should be managed and maintained against natural hazards. To counteract fragmentation, a regulation to prevent farm divisions could be elaborated. There is a lack of clear regulations between residents owning land and the activities of tourists. To reduce the touristic pressure, soft transport modes such as cycle connections and collective transport is needed in the near future. Additionally, second homes should be limited, and the inner development of settlement structures should be improved.

Authors: Nadia Kollmann and Peter Laner, 2021

Second workshop round

Results of workshop on implementation strategies and transferable elements

Planning approaches from other countries were discussed with planning practitioners and politicians from the pilot sites to find solutions for the problems on open spaces emerged in the first workshop round.

Transferable instruments to the OpenSpaceAlps pilot sites

A)    In the Berchtesgadener Land district, the loss of agricultural land is the most serious problem for open spaces. An instrument like the  Agricultural Provision Areas, as it was installed in Tyrol, would be a new solution for safeguarding them.
B)    The protection of the valley bottom of Tennengau could be improved by a multifunctional State Green Zone like it was established in the Austrian federal State Vorarlberg.
C)    A sort of multifunctional Quiet Zone would be possible to implement in the existing Regional Landscape Plan of Friuli Venezia Giulia.
D)    Integrated regional planning in Slovenia is only present on territories with an existing management organisation, like nature parks. A Regional Landscape Plan according to the example of Friuli Venezia Giulia would be the most useful instrument to also protect open spaces in municipality outside nature parks.
E)    Quiet zones would also be possible to integrate in the new Schemas de Coherrence Territorial for the Mont Blanc region in France, which is currently in elaboration.
F)    A plan regarding territorial friendly tourism according to the example of Tyrol would be a new instrument for the Upper Aosta Valley.

Harmonisation potentials

Transnational region Harmonisation potentials
Berchtesgadener Land (DE) – Tennengau (AT) Multifunctional green zone/ multifunctional indicator for evaluating open space functions in the valley bottom
Prealpi Giulie (IT) – Upper Soča Valley (SI) – Carinthia (AT) Regional landscape plans
Mont Blanc (FR) – Upper Aosta Valley (IT) – Valais (CH) Plans combining the territorial aspect of safeguarding of open spaces with the development aspect in tourism destinations


Transferable elements within pilot sites

Good transferability   Difficult transferability
integrative planning instruments   Specific/ sectoral instruments
planning for open space functions   planning against disturbing infrastructure
soil fertility index, ecological corridors, multifunctional indicators, landscape plans
plan for ski lifts and ski slopes, plan on limiting wind power infrastructure, zoning for secondary homes, settlement boundaries


Framework conditions for the transferability of instruments

The workshops revealed that the following framework conditions are the most important ones for transferring planning instruments for safeguarding open spaces to other alpine regions:

  • An existing or upcoming pressure on open spaces
  • A good data basis on the values of open space functions
  • Awareness on open space functions and ecosystem services among spatial planners and the wider public
  • A culture for regional planning and intermunicipal cooperation
  • Legal implementation possibilities


Author: Peter Laner, 2021


Third workshop round

Great potential for transnational open space-harmonization

The third workshop revealed that transboundary analysis of open spaces in the three pilot sites can serve as tool for safeguard these areas. Also, analysing open space functions at local scale is useful to enforce legal implementation of open space protection. However, mapping at macro-regional scale can help localize open spaces within the landscape complex.

The map of the pilot site Berchtesgardener Land – Tennengau for example shows the level of spatial development in percentages grouped into five categories. In this region agricultural land is especially under threat because biotopes, forests and other ecological areas are strictly protected. Consequently, building activities and ecological compensation mostly affect agricultural land which may be important for regional food production in future.

Open Spaces analysis on macro-regional level – zoom to cross-border area Berchtesgaden – Tennengau (DE/AT)

Source: ALPARC – The Alpine Network of Protected Areas, 2021. Cartography: Oriana Coronado

Open Space functions in the cross-border area Berchtesgaden - Tennengau – sectoral approach