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Urban Sprawl in Europe - The Ignored Challenge

Urban Sprawl in Europe - The Ignored Challenge

Between 1990 and 2000 alone, more than 800,000 hectares were built on in Europe. This phenomenon is due to changing lifestyles more than increased population. The amount of space consumed per person has more than doubled over the past 50 years. Today, more than a quarter of the EU's territory has been directly affected by urban sprawl, according to a study by the European Environment Agency, which also suggests potential policies to combat the trend. R. Andreas Kraemer, Director Ecologic, was consulted as an external expert throughout the develoment of the report.

This report is targeted at all those actively involved in the management of Europe's urban areas. The aim is to inform about the impacts of urban sprawl in Europe today and that without concerted action by all agencies to address the underlying causes, the economic social and environmental future of our cities and regions can be compromised.

Chapter 2 and 3 of this report describe the patterns of urban sprawl that have emerged throughout Europe during the post war period, which are related to the global social and economic trends that form the fundamental drivers of sprawl.

Chapter 4 reviews the evidence of the impacts of urban sprawl, and concludes that the sprawling city creates major and severe impacts in relation to a variety of environmental, social and economic issues affecting not only the city and its region but also the surrounding rural areas.

Finally, Chapter 5 examines the principles that could underpin the framework for action at EU level to combat urban sprawl. This would include increased policy coherence built around measures to secure policy integration via close co-ordination between policies in different domains, better co-operation between different levels of administration, as well as policy definition according to the principles of sustainable development.


European Environment Agency 2006: Urban Sprawl in Europe - The Ignored Challenge. EEA Report No 10/2006. ISSN 1725-9177, ISBN 92-9167-887-2. Copenhagen: EEA.

60 pp.
Table of Contents

1. Urban Sprawl – a European challenge
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Why sprawl matters
1.3 Why are cities sprawling
1.4 Links to EU policies
1.5 Who should read this report?
2. The extent of urban sprawl in Europe
2.1 The European picture
2.2 Regional clusters of sprawling and compact cities
3. The drivers of urban sprawl
3.1 Clusters of drivers
3.2 Pathways to urban sprawl
4. The impacts of urban sprawl
4.1 Environmental impacts
4.2 Socio-economic impacts
5. Responses to urban sprawl
5.1 Initiatives to counter sprawl
5.2 The European spatial development perspective
5.3 Current barriers to addressing urban sprawl
5.4 Policy coherence and effectiveness
5.5 Local urban and regional management
5.6 By way of conclusion – combat against urban sprawl
Annex: Data and methodological approach
A The challenge of scales
B Definition of urban areas
C Assessing urban sprawl at the European level: Corine land cover
D Assessing urban sprawl at regional and local levels: MOLAND
References and further reading
Further electronic resources

urban environment, urbanisation, land use, policy evaluation, policy assessment, resources, urban planning,