Experimental Governance in Shrinking Cities: Active Citizenship as a Stop-Gap for Uncertainty?

Authors: Agnes Matoga*, TU Kaiserslautern
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Urban Geography, Land Use
Keywords: shrinking cities, governance, active citizenship
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 17
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Accommodating shrinkage is one of the main challenges depopulating areas face. Shrinkage has come to be not an exceptional phenomenon anymore., yet it is a development that affects 40% of all large cities across Europe (Cortese et al. 2014). Policy responses vary and range from trivializing and ignoring this development to countering, accepting and even utilizing shrinkage (Hospers, 2014). Whereas returning to growth still tends to be the aim of some cities, accepting and utilizing population loss and the potential that comes with it, has recently been a major trend in policy documents of European cities. Experimental and new governance processes can be observed, claiming to give citizens actual power while municipal governments participate where needed.
This contribution focuses on the role of residents in such governance processes on the one hand, and the changing role of the planner on the other. This research explores the case of Heerlen, Netherland where the method of “Gebrookerbos” has changed the way vacant spaces are approached. In such long-term shrinking areas, uncertainty prevails and is even heightened due to the above mentioned circumstances and complex intertwinement of factors that lead to shrinkage. The preliminary conclusion here is that governance processes are shifting due to effects of shrinkage and officials at the municipality and planners find themselves constantly redefining their role and adapting to the changing circumstances. However, the analysis also reveals that the increased involvement of residents is of temporary nature and potentially only filling a (physical) void created by rightsizing policies.

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