Urban land uptake: factors, impacts and remedial measures

On 8 December 2017 IFSTTAR and INRA, will present the findings of a joint study of urban land uptake carried out at the request of the Ministries of the Environment and Agriculture and ADEME. The goal of the symposium is to describe the processes involved in the phenomenon, its consequences and the possible solutions. IFSTTAR researcher Anne Ruas explains

This is the outcome of a multidisciplinary scientific project conducted by some thirty experts over more than two years. The findings of the collective scientific study (ESCo) on urban land uptake conducted by IFSTTAR and INRA will be presented at a symposium on 8 December 2017 in Paris on the premises of the French National Horticultural Society (Société Nationale d’Horticulture de France - SNHF). This work, which was commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture and ADEME consisted of a survey of the international scientific literature on the topic. The goal is to inform public decision-making in order to better control a phenomenon which represents “the main threat to soils in Europe.” The expert appraisal conducted by the two research institutes draws attention to “the determinants and social, economic and environmental impacts of urban land uptake.”

“We will being by describing the various techniques that are used to measure urban land uptake and the underlying reasons for the phenomenon” the researcher explains.  And there are many of them: the building of homes, business parks and roads, land prices, lifestyles “Household sizes are falling, and at the same time each individual is occupying a larger surface area.  Unsurprisingly this results in urban growth.” Transport also plays a role. “It has become faster and cheaper. It is therefore possible to move further away from one’s place of work.” In addition, land is less expensive and the quality of life is better in periurban municipalities. “Citizens are making this choice and developing a taste for nature. They can take advantage of urban services while being in contact with a less dense environment.” The outcome is that municipalities are growing at the expense of agricultural land. 

The speakers will also deal with the impact of urban land take and possible countermeasures.  Pollution and soil sealing, health issues, high levels of road traffic… The problems caused by urban land take affect humans – but not only humans. “Road construction fragments the landscape, preventing the displacement of animals and plants which reduces the number of species. There is a need for genetic exchanges and these cannot take place when spaces become too small.” In urban areas, the solutions include making urban areas greener and reducing soil sealing in order to mitigate the impacts of urban land take and prevent urban sprawl. Finally, the symposium will provide an opportunity for discussions about issues such as local development policies for municipalities and France’s housing shortage.

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