Net zero consumption in land use: this will be an uphill battle

Voice chief editor Uwe Ralf Heer (center) moderated the fascinating discussion with Professor Dr. Stefan Siedentop, scientific director of the ILS and professor at TU Dortmund (left), Klaus Holaschke, mayor of the city of Eppingen and vice-chairman of the city council (next to ) and Klaus Mandel, director of the Heilbronn Regional Association Franken (right) and Nicole Razavi, Minister of Development and Housing. Photo: Ralf Seidel

Ensure prosperity and protect the climate. Promote the economy and preserve nature. Strengthen mobility and protect the environment. Growing food and expanding renewable energy sources. Create housing and stop urban sprawl. These goals have collided more and more violently since the major crises. How should the space be used in the future? In the countryside, in the region, in the districts, in the communities? That was the subject of an exciting discussion by the citizens’ initiative for each region of Heilbronn-Franken on Friday at the Carmen-Würth-Forum in Künzelsau, moderated by voice editor Uwe Ralf Heer.

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The resource space is finite

The countryside in particular came into the picture. As the battle for space will be all the greater, there will be more wind turbines and solar systems. And the more local agriculture must contribute to food security without endangering biological diversity. One thing is clear: what one desires is not available to the other. Because even though time and time again it is said that too much space is used, one thing should not be forgotten: space is a finite resource.

square the circle

Professor Dr Stefan Siedentop is a proven expert in the field of spatial planning in Germany. Prior to the panel discussion, he delivered a keynote speech. Photo: Ralf Seidel

It is therefore about finding a new balance that meets all requirements and interests. The same sometimes already today “from squaring the circle,” says Klaus Mandel, director of the Heilbronn-Franken regional association. What will happen if the green-black government of Baden-Württemberg redrafts the “state development plan”? The existing one was adopted in 2002 and urgently needs updating. Nicole Razavi, Minister of Regional Development and Housing, sees “completely new land needs” emerging after the corona crisis and war in Ukraine “almost caused an earthquake” “and no stone was left unturned”. Not to mention the climate crisis. The politician knows: “We need to drill some thick boards.”

Surface pressure is enormous

Essentially, it is about stopping the expansion of settlement and transport areas without slowing down the economy and prosperity. These areas must therefore be used more intensively, more innovatively and more cooperatively. In favor of nature and the environment, as well as the generation of renewable energy and agricultural products. The surface pressure is already enormous today. And will continue to increase when no new space is in use in 2035. This is how the Greens and the CDU want it in the country, and the coalition agreement contains the promise of ‘net zero’. Infrastructure that is no longer needed should also be dismantled and sealing stopped altogether.

“Less ideology, more pragmatism”

Klaus Holaschke, mayor of the city of Eppingen and vice president of the city council, is sceptical. “The goal of net zero consumption will exacerbate conflicts. I don’t see how we can meet all the requirements without new space.” His credo is: “Less ideology, more pragmatism,” says Razavi.

ProRegion event in Kunzelsau | Kunzelsau | 11/11/2022 | 15 images | Photographer: Ralf Seidel

Lack of internal development is a pain point

However, there is no avoiding “intensifying all efforts to activate more areas in the city”. She hits a sore point that takes up a lot of space in the debate. Particularly in rural areas such as Hohenlohe, there are gaps between buildings and vacancy in communities and villages, while new building areas are being designated on the periphery: with generous areas for single-family homes. Are the municipalities doing too little to encourage living in the city centre? Stefan Siedentop protects her. “Many communities want to do a lot of good, but are held back by federal law,” says the scientific director of the Institute for State and Urban Development Research and professor at the Technical University of Dortmund. Because: “It is hardly possible to mobilize undeveloped land if the owners say no.” Siedentop is campaigning to change this legally, up to and including “theoretical expropriation”.

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Federal policy in service

Minister Nicole Razavi does not want to go that far: “First of all, it is important to use all other options” – and to make federal politicians responsible for legislative changes. “There are plenty of ideas for interior development.” For example, modular building models with flexible use in time, “or by building something on one floor on top of the supermarket”. In order to make better use of the space for living, the construction of multi-storey dwellings or rental dwellings should be strengthened. Razavi describes how it can be done, using an example from her home district of Göppingen. In one municipality, “only five plots of land for single-family homes were planned”, but then a residential area was created on the site, where significantly more people have space. “This is exactly the kind of thinking we need, without wagging a finger.”

Societal reconsideration required

The event of the citizens’ initiative by region on land use took place in the Carmen-Würth-Forum in Künzelsau on Friday evening. Photo: Ralf Seidel

On the other hand, the minister demands: “We need a social rethink.” And also calls her home district Göppingen. “Four construction projects were rejected there by referenda.” The high pressure to change is always accompanied by a low willingness to change. “But Baden-Württemberg will be an open-air museum and not a place of the future”. Razavi is in favor of “abolishing the objection procedure for housing” – just like for renewable energy construction projects.

Involve citizens more? Pro and contra

Stefan Siedentop advocates involving citizens as early as possible. Otherwise they would feel abandoned. Referendums are always an indication that “there has been too little consultation beforehand”. One solution is “citizen workshops when the planning and future is still open”. Nicole Razavi doesn’t mind: “Then there is so much sand in the gears very early on that we can’t make any progress at all”. Klaus Holaschke sees it the same way. And Klaus Mandel agrees: “We continue to encounter well-cultivated selfishness. But there is no lifelong right to a good outlook in life.” Talking to people is important. “But you can also arrive at a result in the interest of the public interest.”

A huge task ahead

Stefan Siedentop builds a bridge. And is in favor of finding a “balance” between “acceleration and centralization” on the one hand, and early involvement of people in the planning and implementation of construction projects on the other. After all, “destructive attitudes of denial” cannot be explained away. And so it finally became all too clear: the topic of “living in the future” alone contains so much fuel in the tension between internal and external development that the reorganization of land use in this country will become a real piece of work .

Background: state development plan

By 2035, the green-black state government wants to ensure that it ultimately comes down to no new land being used in the state. That is stated in the coalition agreement. The New State Development Plan (LEP), now being updated, is an essential part of achieving this net zero target. The existing one dates from 2002 and does not include the strongly increased importance of renewable energy, nor the serious consequences of digitalisation, for example in the field of living and working. “The twelve regional associations are the most important partners for us in this process,” says the responsible minister of state Nicole Razavi. One is for Heilbronn-Franken. “We take a bird’s-eye view of the country and put a kind of course book over it, and the associations have to do exactly that with the municipalities.” She sees completely new opportunities, especially for rural areas.

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