IT-3 :: Spatial and urban planning

Italy is one of the highest soil consumers in Europe and the improvement of research in spatial and urban planning can contribute to mitigate this phenomenon. The mitigation of land take, together with land safety, urban renewal and regeneration, and the reuse of contaminated areas, should be strategic objectives in our country (Ispra, 2015). Within this framework, NKS move in two directions. According to Inspiration glossary, one is closer to the key-word of soil sealing and moves together with the loss of fertile soil and biodiversity. Whereas the other dimension entails the reuse of abandoned areas and buildings, and it’s linked to brownfield remediation.
Specific research questions:
• Land management models and instruments oriented to zero land take balance:
Despite the peculiar fragility of its lands, Italy is one of the highest land taker in Europe. The mitigation of land take, together with land safety, urban renewal and regeneration, as well as the reuse of contaminated areas, should represent a strategic objective in our country (Ispra, 2015).
Why: This last is definitely the most cited topic, asking for new effective strategies (new policies, new laws, new procedures). The priority of this topic is very high.
Natural capital:
• Soil ecosystem services protection and management: Ecosystem goods and services are the direct and indirect contributions of ecosystems to human wellbeing. Ecosystems provide four different categories of services: provisioning services, regulating services, habitat or supporting services and cultural services. Ecosystem services indicators (to be defined and measured by the research) could be integrated into existing planning tools (notably in the Strategic Environmental Assessment - SEA) and into soil management models (to be designed by the research as well).
Why: Soils provide a wide range of vital ecosystem services (ES). Soils ES are threaten by land take, soil sealing, erosion, land degradation, pollution. There is a need to study and assess ES provided by soils in order to prevent degradation and possibly to improve it.
• Monitoring Information Systems and flood risk management techniques: Water monitoring systems could be a worthwhile investment in research by accessing and organizing local data at the national level. With a global perspective (of the whole country and ideally worldwide) resources could be saved by identifying real flood risks and acting to prevent it.
Why: Sustainable water management can ensure economical saving and actual flood risk prevention, mitigating environmental disasters.

• Erosion and runoff models and scenarios:
The risk of surface water run-off represents a soil threat. The main soil degradation processes involved are: soil erosion and soil contamination by transferring Plant Protection Products (agrochemicals), soil fertility and soil biodiversity loss;
Why: The erosion phenomena is huge especially on the hills, with relevant economic impact on valuable crops.
Land management:
• Urban regeneration models and tools to strengthen urban resilience:
Promote strategies and urban policies focused on the reuse of abandoned areas and buildings (including brownfields and their remediation), looking to ‘zero land take’ horizon. Afterwards the massive industries’ disposal, indeed, wide soils (which during the industrial age were outside the city, but currently are within) need to be remediated. The strategic position of these lands is very relevant, both in term of real estate and urban densification, and could help reducing new land take.
Why: these processes could lead wide benefits to sustainability in general, impacting on society, environment and economics (improving the competitiveness of the city in the global arena).
• Landscape quality indicators in spatial and urban planning:
The need for indicators to evaluate and monitor the effects of landscape policies and plans is a big research topic related to land management and environmental issues. Landscape is already considered in spatial and urban planning and in SEA, but unlike air, soil, or water, it is difficult to measure it using quantitative methods, because of its multiple dimensions.
Why: Both practitioners and public authorities can profit of this research, which can offer a contribute to landscape policies, plans and landscape assessment (within SEA and EIA procedures and multi-criteria assessment methods)
Net Impact:
• Study of the relationship between built environment and health:
Nowadays it is recognised that built environment has an impact on human health and wellbeing and that actions aimed at improving health are likely to be influenced by the environmental and socioeconomic context in which they take place. Therefore urban design and planning can play an important role in this context.
Why: Several studies on this issue have been developed during the last years but research based on empirical data is still missing.