Promoting cross-border open space protection in the Alps
Looking back at the symposium of the Bavarian Regional Working Group and the final conference "OpenSpaceAlps" with the European Working Group "AlpPlan" of the ARL
The ARL actively promotes transnational networking and cooperation on spatially relevant topics and challenges in defined sub-regions of Europe. To this end, the ARL increasingly brings together experts across countries to develop specific cross-border solutions and to support their implementation.
In order to establish a long-term exchange and working format with the spatially relevant actors from the countries bordering the Alps, the first European Working Group (EWG) of the ARL was launched in 2020 and deals with the topic of safeguarding open spaces in the Alps (AlpPlan). In terms of content, the EWG can build on the results and expert contacts from the Interreg project "Open Space Alps", which has been working on this topic since 2019 and will conclude in 2022. The ARL has initiated the AlpPlan EWG in order to secure the networks created and to consolidate the excellent work results, as well as to transfer them, if possible, into political and planning decision-making structures and plans.
From 30 May to 1 June 2022, a combined conference was held in Bolzano (South Tyrol) on the premises of the Eurac Research Centre, as Eurac (Centre for Applied Research) is a partner in the aforementioned Interreg project. At the invitation of the ARL Bavarian Regional Working Group (“Landesarbeitsgemeinschaft Bayern”), the joint event started with a symposium on the topic of open space protection. Sylvia Ganthaler, representative of the regional planning of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano in the Office for Municipal Planning, was invited to give a keynote speech. She explained the ways and means of the intended restriction of land use in the new South Tyrolean Spatial Planning Act. It became apparent that South Tyrolean spatial planning, with its clear legal formulations, economic instruments and innovative quality assessments to reduce land take, is much further ahead than the corresponding regulations in Germany.
Afterwards Prof. Dr. Christian Jacoby from the The Universität der Bundeswehr München and Constantin Meyer from the University of Würzburg presented some of the key findings of the working group "Sustainable land use through spatial and environmental planning", a sub-group of the Bavarian Regional Working Group. Christian Jacoby referred to the new protected good of land introduced in the Environmental Impact Assessment Act in 2017 and explained that the terminology between land savings and open space protection must be clarified with regard to the target dimension. In particular, land resource management must be integrated early and intensively into the planning processes as a component of the environmental assessment. Constantin Meyer then presented a systematization of the methodology of land monitoring. He argued that in the future, the loss of open space with the associated loss of functions and ecosystem services should be identified first, not just land take.
Finally, Prof. Dr. Hubert Job from the University of Würzburg bridged the gap between the activities of the Bavarian Regional Working Group and the Interreg project "Open Space Alps" by illustrating the extraordinary importance of the Bavarian Alpine Plan from the 1970s for the protection of open spaces in the Alps. This "best idea of the past 50 years" has since saved larger areas from being developed for touristic purposes. However, today many areas endangered by climate change do not benefit from these protection categories. In addition, the pressure of use on many areas in the Alps is growing due to the rising population in the surrounding conurbations and the resulting increase in the demand for tourism and recreation.
The final conference "Open Space Alps" on 31 May and 1 June 2022, which directly followed the symposium, started with two introductory presentations. Renate Steinmann (Department of Spatial Planning of the Federal State of Salzburg) presented the regional development programme of the Federal State of Salzburg, which provides for the implementation of quiet zones as planning criteria for open space protection. Afterwards Peter Kasal (Director of the Office for Landscape Planning of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano) spoke about new approaches to open space planning in the Province of Bolzano. He emphasised that all too often there is a lack of vision and will and not so much a lack of instruments.
Afterwards, the manifold results of the Interreg project were presented: among others, the planning handbook “Perspectives for consistent safeguarding of open spaces in the Alpine region” with eleven clearly formulated planning principles for alpine open space protection that can be transferred to the different national framework conditions. Available for free download here:
In addition, detailed strategic recommendations for policy and practice for the transfer and implementation of these planning principles, also available for free download:
The ARL Position Paper 133 "Safeguarding open spaces in the Alpine region" is also based on these recommendations and can be downloaded free of charge here:
It became clear from the discussions that there are many spatially relevant challenges in the Alpine region, especially with regard to climate change and the energy transition, but also with regard to the broader conflicts that affect the development of the Alpine region in the areas of services of general interest, rural exodus, mobility and housing needs. The goal of consolidating and further developing the network structures that have grown in the project context and the results in the EWG met with much approval.
In a second session, the possibilities for the continuation of the project through the EWG AlpPlan were presented and discussed. Through its transdisciplinary composition - as a central principle of the ARL's way of working - the EWG is able to react to the hurdle perceived by some participants that the decision makers have not been involved enough in the activities so far. At the same time, a long-term perspective for professional exchange and cooperation is to be created, because the EWG also wants to develop its own projects and further activities for transboundary alpine open space protection.
In autumn, a follow-up meeting of the EWG is planned in Vienna, for which a mission statement will be formulated.