‘Why does actually Poland look like a Disneyland?’ stated a rather rhetorical question, bolding in the Urban Planning section of Welt.de in 2014, exactly one year before the new revisatisation law came into effect. Poland needed a clear and legit scheme that would help it sustain over 20% of its degraded areas which included more than 50% of downtown urban structure, severely neglected during the last two centuries. And the Polish government saw a chance in building up a new approach towards planning principals, relaying on knowledge exchange and professional support from countries where the well- functioning systems have already existed. The structure and methodologies of Germany’s Revitalisation Law and its measurable results has inspired politicians and urban activists and served as a strong example in debates about the importance and socio-economic impacts of redeveloping deteriorated areas.
This is how the cooperation between Polish planners, politicians and the German specialists from urban and regional planning field begun, resulting in late 2015 in new planning principals that can bring a long awaiting chance to Poland’s cities’ landscape.
Amendment of Polish Urban and Revitalisation Legal Principles from 9th October 2015
Structure of new legal instruments in revitalisation processes
The Revitalisation Regulation was passed on 9th October 2015 by the Sejm (the lower chamber of Polish parliament) and brought to life on 18th November 2015 in Journal of Laws under position 1777. For the first time in Polish law system there is an actual legal tool that refers to enhancing the quality of urban and social situation in degraded areas, which underlies the impotency of revitalisation process, as an instrument that gives a chance to reverse the negative trends in spatial and environmental development. The main purpose of elaborating and passaging it was to prioritize the process of renewal legally held by communes according to the range of their administrative responsibilities regulated by law from 1990 – previous actions of local units were simply ineffective
due to lack of guidelines and schemes of proceeding that would give a clear idea about the outcomes of such planning. Now every commune has an instrumentary to prepare, coordinate and control the conditions and processes of urban renewal in their own unit, for their own development. They can create their own plans or use the existing scenarios, including f.e. financial support forms and professional consultation. According to art.52 reg.1 the units that at the day of passing the regulation have been already taking part in a revitalisation process do not have to change their procedure until 2023 – it gives only an opportunity to use them as a help in the transition time. In addition, the communes are not obligated to take part in any of the programmes.
There are three main similarities, structurally and formally identical, that define 1. Definition of Redevelopment Area and its characteristic, 2. Setting procedure of Boundary of Redevelopment Area and 3. Participation Process. It is to underline that the Polish renewal of regulation results from cooperation between Poland and Germany and the given similarities are the actual outcome of this co-work.
1. Definition of Redevelopment Area
The formal definition of Redevelopment Areas (German: Sanierungsgebiet, Polish: Specjalna Strefa Rewitalizacji) is given in §137 Baugesetzbuch (further described as BauGB) and chapter 5 Dziennik Ustaw Nr. 1777 (further described as DzU). It defines a degraded area as: a space that exhibits social, spatial, economical, technical, aesthetical and/or environmental degradation features that disable its future development. The commune is obligated to define its urban problematic to be able to take part in one of Revitalization Programmes.
2. Setting procedure of Boundary of Redevelopment Area
The municipal district council passes in form of a statue the formal Boundaries of Redevelopment Area ( §142 BauGB; chapter 3 DzU) after, regarding to § 136 BauGB, the serious deficits in the analysed area are proved and the requirements of Preparation Reseach Dokumentation (§141 Vorbereitende Untersuchung; chapter 3 DzU) are fulfilled. The Redevelopment Area has to be defined according to § 142 BauGB and chapter 3 DzU to appropriately and efficiently execute the renovation’s process. In Germany and also in Poland the conditions for the formal definition do nto hav to be limited only to a particular sectin. It is possible to include additional areas that are not directly connected to the core analysed renewal zone, but functionally and structurally share common urban problematics and their revitalisation is important for the whole area.
3. Participation Process
Due to the numerous amount of facts that are always connected with the whole long-term revitalisation process and have a strong influence on habitants’ interest, the importance of public participation could not be undermined. One of the essential problems is that the plots included in redevelopment process are often privately owned and the owners, due to lack of sufficient knowledge are often unaware of consequences of such investments. In addition, the area will be simply used in the future by people living there and therefore it has to fulfil their needs. For the first time in Polish law the principle of public participation has been defined and holds that those who are affected by a council’s decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process (§137 BauGB, chapter 2 DzU) – statements, objections, doubts or suggestions are formulated
by all parties (citizens, associations and other authorities) and are transmitted to the plan bearer. The regulatin assumes that a very early civil participation raises the acceptance and the quality of the urban land use planning. The faulty realisation of the public participation can lead to the invalidity of functioning of urban space. According to Poland’s collected experience, especially in PPR period, the participation process is one to key instruments to avoid the degrading impacts of such politics in future.
Urban and regional planning is a complex process that not only needs a well-functioning law but also experienced planners, wide range of professionals from different market’s branches and social participation. If there is a need of changing the legal principals but the government lacks in procedural schemes or legit guidelines there is always a possibility to cooperate with other countries that succeeded in this field, profiting from their knowledge, and learning their planning skills. Few elements of German Revitalisation Law, like processes defining the redevelopment areas or actual citizens’
involvement in urban transformation can serve many other countries for an example of how the problematics of renovation of degraded areas might be approached. For Poland that kind of opportunity created a chance for fixing the defective system. The first steps towards forming a new spatial order which would hopefully be a remedy for visual, social and economic issues referring to degraded areas had been made. Now it is time to wait for its results.