Suburban zones, particularly around big cities, are subject to intensive suburbanisation processes (Lisowski & Grochowski 2008: 239; Jakóbczyk-Gryszkiewicz 1998: 5). The process of suburbanisation is triggered by a number of factors, including cultural, demographic, socio-political, economic, technological, legal-administrative, ecological and systemic ones (Zuziak 2005: 22). Cultural and social reasons influence the behavioural changes of the inhabitants – the pattern of behaviour and lifestyle changes. Having a house in the suburbs has become the dream of a perfect family life (Zuziak 2005: 22; Sobiech-Grabka 2015: 28). From the demographic point of view, suburbanisation is a process triggered by the migration of a better educated, richer and frequently younger population from central districts to the suburbs. As a result, there is an increasing structural disparity between the inhabitants of the central parts of cities and their suburbs (Zuziak 2005: 22; Bański 2008: 38; Chmielewski 2016: 98–99). Economic incentives are important elements that influence suburbanisation. These include: tax incentives and other economic conveniences such as low rents. These are the practices used by communes to attract new residents and investors to their area because new residents are a source of income for local government (Zathey 2005: 194). The increasing availability of one’s own car, which is currently the main means of transport from a place of residence to a workplace, is a technological factor of suburbanisation (Lisowski & Grochowski 2008: 240). Legal and administrative factors, including location procedures and building permissions, are the most frequent reasons that lead to the chaotic nature of suburban development (Zuziak 2005: 22; Zimnicka & Czernik 2007a: 112). Due to the lack of instruments that effectively coordinate the spatial policies of municipalities in suburban areas, suburbanisation processes are chaotic and uncontrolled. Communes compete with neighbouring areas to attract new residents to their area. They forget about the importance of links with neighbouring areas which would prevent transport problems, underdevelopment of communal infrastructure and inappropriate educational provision (Lorens 2005: 40–41; Lisowski & Grochowski 2008: 250).
In the past settling near a city was associated with peace and quiet. The outline of the suburban design was provided by the utopian vision of E. Howard’s concept of garden cities. It was however modified, simplified or carried out in fragmentary fashion (Kiełczewska-Zaleska 1972: 192; Chmielewski 2016: 92).
Suburban areas are less intensively built-up than urban areas. Usually the density of building decreases with distance from the city centre, however, for a dozen years the rural areas of communes near the city have become an area of interest to investors (Maik & Liszewski 2000; Chmielewski 2016: 97–98). People are running away from the busy and crowded city. At the same time they want to live in near to it. It turns out that Howard’s idea made sense. However, these days the realisation of suburban housing estates does not resemble this concept. Developers very frequently want “to stuff” the largest number of flats on a given area in order to maximise the profits obtained. The amount of greenery is minimised. They rarely ensure the provision of social infrastructure, and modern housing estates do not provide any places of employment. Housing estates arise chaotically and without comprehensive planning. These are rarely the effect of planned activities undertaken by local authorities. Most investments are based on the ideas of developers and these ideas do not form a conceptual plan that harmonises with the development of a large area. Due to this process, building development in the suburban zone is spilling chaotically over the area causing the adverse occurrence of so-called ‘urban sprawl’. The majority of cities in the world face this problem. Counteracting this phenomenon involves, among other things, attempts to create larger-scale and more consistent policies and the streamlining of the planning system (Chmielewski 2016: 103–106).
The aim of this article is to show ways of guiding house building development in the planning documents of suburban communes surrounding a large city. Detailed work on the suburban zone of the city of Wroclaw was discussed. From among the planning documents that operate in Poland, the Study of the Conditions (i.e. existing conditions) and Directions (i.e. potential for development) of Spatial Management of a Commune [SC&DSM, in Polish: Studium Uwarunkowań i Kierunków Zagospodarowania Przestrzennego] was chosen. This planning document includes the entire area of the commune and, at the same time, every commune in Poland must prepare one. As part of the work, an analysis was made of the house building industry based on the SC&DSM in force in communes on 31.12.2016. Managing housing development in suburbia, particularly that of major cities, e.g. Wroclaw, influences not only the functioning and development of the entire suburban zone, but also the city itself. According to this, it is a substantial investment to properly plan the laying out of suburbs. The work is an attempt to show how the regulations in the study have an influence on both the city and the suburbs, in a positive and negative manner, in relation to the land used for housing. An important element of the work is also to show how suburban communes approach intensive urban sprawl at the planning level. The analysis was not only carried out on the basis of the regulations and documents of SC&DSM of individual communes. Because some data was incomplete and in order to better depict the phenomenon in question, the widely available data published in the Local Data Bank of the Central Statistical Office [BDL GUS; in Polish: Bank Danych Lokalnych Głównego Urzędu Statystycznego] and the publication of the Institute for Territorial Development [IRT; in Polish: Instytut Rozwoju Terytorialnego] was also used. The area of research includes 9 communes that surround the city of Wroclaw. Border zones were determined based on the delimitation by S. Ciok (1992: 134).
There is a great variation in suburbanisation processes in different parts of the world. They have different characteristics and genesis in the USA and in Europe. Significant differences also exist between the countries of Western Europe and Central-Eastern Europe (Zimnicka & Czernik 2007a: 22–23). Settlement in the suburbs in the United States has a long history of over a hundred years. The beginnings came as a result of the popularisation of the car and the aspirations of the middle class to possess a house of their own. Originally, they were areas with a similar population density to urban areas. Building development was monotonous, low-rise, deprived of services and work places. This was typical dormitory suburbia (Jakóbczyk-Gryszkiewicz 1998: 69; Dylewski 2006: 33). The problem of urban sprawl in the USA has grown to a national level and federal solutions are being used (Dylewski 2006: 34; Anacker 2015: 213–214). The tradition of planning has its oldest roots in Europe. In suburban zones the ‘Athens Charter’, dating from 1933, was the first document which paid attention to the danger of spontaneous proliferation of building development. At present, West European planning focuses on respect for the natural environment, high quality housing, spatial order and the sustainable development of areas (Radziejowski 2006: 86). Housing development is being planned as a whole by developers according to investment opportunities, and determined by local authorities and the manner in which spatial planning is carried out. Plans for building development are very detailed and the location of a building in an area in which it is not allowed in the plan is very difficult and rarely permitted (Chmielewski 2016: 537–538). In Central and Eastern Europe before 1989, planning was imposed according to the policies of the authorities (Lorens 2005: 38). Socio-economic and political changes resulting from the political transformation have had a huge impact on the manner in which construction proceeds in cities and their surroundings (Wojnarowska 2010: 21). At the end of the 20th century there was rapid development of housing, especially private housing. Due to the easing of procedures and lower prices of land, more and more buildings were located outside the city, often far from the original village buildings on in greenfield locations. Over time, the new inhabitants often exceeded the numbers of the old ones. There began to be an increase in the problems arising from the development of suburban zones (Lechman 2005: 165–166).
The Wroclaw suburban zone
It is difficult to give an unequivocal definition of a suburban area. Many researchers debate the precise meaning of this term. It is recognised that this is an area between the city and country – a transitional zone of penetration of both urban and rural influences. The suburban area is an area around the city, linked to it and developing through its influence (Bański 2008: 30). The size of the city determines the size of the suburban area. Its evolution depends on the development of the historic city (Jakóbczyk-Gryszkiewicz 1998: 71). The suburban zone is a dynamic space that changes all the time under the influence of economic, technological, social and political factors (spatial policy). The development of a suburban area is dependent on many factors. The most important is the size, origin and rank of the mother city. The natural environment also has a great influence on the development of the suburban zone. Transformations of suburban zones in different parts of the world vary. This is due to the political and economic situation, level of development in individual countries, and different approaches towards planning (Liszewski 1985, Lorens 2005: 6).
Wroclaw’s suburban zone was separated on the basis of the delimitation of the administrative territorial division of Poland from 1 January 1999. There are eight communes bordering Wroclaw: Czernica, Długołęka, Kąty Wrocławskie, Kobierzyce, Miękinia, Oborniki Ślaskie, Siechnice and Wisznia Mała, and the commune of Żórawina about 2 km from the border of Wroclaw. They form a compact belt surrounding the city (Fig. 1). These are local government units located in the Lower Silesian Voivodeship in the three following counties: Trzebnicki (Oborniki Śląskie and Wisznia Mała), Średzki (Miękinia) and Wrocławski (the other six communes). Apart from the rural communes, three are categorized as urbanrural (Kąty Wrocławskie, Oborniki Śląskie and Siechnice). The character of the area changes under the influence of a large city such as Wroclaw. This is especially visible since the 1990s and is a result of the system transformation.
The Wroclaw suburban zone occupies only 6.4% of the area of Lower Silesia voivodeship and is inhabited by 5.5% of the population of this area. Its average population density is 124 people per square kilometre. This area is characterised by a positive migration balance, which affects the growing population in this area. Migrants predominantly move from the city (80%). Since the early 1990s, the population of the suburban area has been steadily increasing. This increase is different in different communes. The greatest increase in the number of inhabitants was observed in Czernica commune whose population has increased by 72% since the year 2000. The smallest population growth in the study area took place in Oborniki Śląskie commune (whose population has increased by 16% since the year 2000). In the years 2000–2015 the population of the area increased by 47246 people, which represents a 42% increase (GUS data). The population changes of the area analysed are not uniform and their distribution depends to a large extent on the housing policy of the individual communes.
Housing policy in the Studies of the Conditions and Directions of Spatial Management of a Commune
Due to the great interest in residential areas from potential buyers, suburban communes allocate areas previously used for agricultural purposes for residential purposes. The land organisation and development of suburban areas may be divided into two phases. The first is due to the activity of individual investors, while the second is related to the activities of commercial developers. Individual investors cause the creation of architecturally differentiated buildings on parcels of various shapes and sizes. Buildings are often dispersed and do not create any compact groups. Individual investors’ actions frequently result in the development of single family detached houses. Commercial development activities are usually more complex. Usually entire settlements are built on larger areas. Commercial developers rarely limit their work to individual buildings (Zathey 2005: 193–195, Gonda-Soroczyńska 2009: 157).
The first law on spatial planning in Poland was adopted in 1961. Legal documents followed in 1984, 1994 and 2003 (Czornik & Gibas 2014: 111–112). Planning takes place on 3 levels: national, regional (provincial) and local (commune). Within the SC&DSM, the Local Spatial Management Plan, decisions are made concerning terms of construction and land management and concerning the location of a construction project for a public facility (Czornik & Gibas 2014: 113–114). Moreover, communes have the right to produce other planning documents: development strategies, development plans, etc (Zimmnicka & Czernik 2007b: 60, Chmielewski 2016: 219–220).
The selection of areas where a change of land use will take place depends on the policy of the local commune and reflects the provisions of the study of spatial planning conditions and directions. This is the only planning document covering the entire area of the commune, providing guidance for more detailed planning in smaller areas when drawing up local spatial development plans.
In Poland the planning system was established by the Act on Spatial Planning and Management of 27 March 2003 (Ustawa z dnia 27 marca 2003 r. oplanowaniu i zagospodarowaniu przestrzennym). According to article 9 section 5 of this law, the SC&DSM does not constitute an act of local law. It consists of two parts: the conditions (where the existing situation is described) and the directions (potential areas where development could take place in the commune). This document presents the direction of the commune’s policy in terms of development of its area for various land uses (including housing). This document carries a great deal of weight because it is obligatory to take this information into account when developing local spatial development plans in accordance with article 9 section 4 of the cited law which are legal acts. Drawing up the SC&DSM is the responsibility and duty of the commune. It is also financed by the budget of the commune, except for specific situations set out in the law.
Housing development and the socio-economic situation in the Wroclaw suburban area
The communes of the suburban area of Wroclaw are changing character and their way of development as a result of their lying in the immediate neighbourhood of a large urban centre – Wroclaw. This is an asset, which, in relation to the local government policy of the authorities supporting their development, attracts numerous new inhabitants to their area. As a result of the exclusion of land from agricultural production and the allocation of housing and industrial-service land, the character of many villages is changing. Wroclaw’s impact on the housing structure varies from place to place. Settlement, especially new housing, is particularly intensive within a short distance from the city. The original type of village is changing under the influence of the intensive development of individual housing and speculative housing. Much of the suburban development of housing estates resembles urban districts more than a village. Most of the areas for investment are located along the main transport routes and near the administrative border of Wroclaw. At the same time, communes planning to develop their area dedicate the land more distant from the city for housing. It is also worth noting that the number of people in suburban areas mainly increases as a result of this. This is not so much due to the formation of individual buildings within these areas as due to the construction of entire estates.
There are numerous international, national and provincial roads in the immediate vicinity of Wroclaw. For most of their residents, the suburban areas remain only ‘dormitories’. The main place for work, study, shopping, and leisure time is Wroclaw. This results in a very high demand for daily commuting, and the existing public transport system is not efficient enough for these needs. As a consequence, the intensity of private traffic in the communes surrounding the city of Wroclawis steadily increasing. Unfortunately, improvements in the transport infrastructure tend to lag behind, as they lose out to the pressure on new housing. As a result of poor road conditions and insufficient capacity, the access to many localities is unsatisfactory. In addition, the suburban communes’ lack of cooperation both with each other and with the city of Wroclaw causes a growing problem of communication.
Another significant problem in the intensely developing suburban area is the lack of expansion of the technical and social infrastructure associated with housing development. In spite of this inconvenience, the inhabitants of Wroclaw continue to make the decision to move out of the city. The main reasons for such decisions are: lower prices of land and housing than in Wroclaw and the desire to improve their current housing conditions.
Wroclaw’s suburban zone is of a very varied character in terms of development (Tab. 1). This is largely due to the various spatial policies of the communes bordering the city. Communes are very different in terms of housing planning at the SC&DSM stage. Some are only marking areas where housing development can take place (Czernica, Miękinia, Oborniki Śląskie, Żórawina) and others determine the type of building development in great detail in their area (Siechnice, Kobierzyce). It is possible to find from 1 to 10 indications of types of housing development in the documents. Differences concern not only the accuracy of the division of housing areas but also house naming policies. Depending on the politics of a given commune, the types of buildings accepted in the areas allocated for housing are different. In some cases (e.g. Siechnice) the communes are very consciously defining what can be put in an area. In others (Czernica, Miękinia, Oborniki Śląskie, Żórawina) all types of buildings are allowed. In areas where housing development is being carried out, independent, twin, terrace and multi-family building development is possible. Detailed indication of building types is left to local land management plans or location decisions. Unfortunately many communes still apply very general regulations which will leave great freedom at the planning and implementation stage. Some communes, in order to preserve their rural character, considerably restrict the introduction of multi-family and terrace housing development (often treated more restrictively than multi-family housing). The allocation of land for multifamily housing is justified on various grounds. Some communes, such as Siechnice and Kobierzyce, locate multi-family housing very consciously in specific, designated locations. Other municipalities, though, allow a multi-family housing land use only as a supplement (Wisznia Mała) or only in areas where it already exists (Długołęka). The SC&DSM records of individual communes have a differing accuracy in determining parameters for building development.
Housing development in Study of the Conditions and Directions of the Spatial Management of individual communes
|L.p.||Commune||Date of passing the SC&DSM||Policies on housing development||Comments|
|1||Czernica||20 November 2012||A significant increase in the number of residential areas||It is advisable to concentrate building activity by limiting it to a distance of less than 100m from the boundaries of existing property or property under construction.|
|2||Długołęka||22 May 2014||Prevent the spread of housing, non-extension of the policies concerning the growth of residential areas||The study contains guidelines based on the local plans despite their subordinate position in the planning system.|
|3||Kąty Wrocławskie||27 September 2012||Attracting investors to the commune||The local plans may considerably alter what was agreed upon in the study.|
|4||Kobierzyce||19 August 2016||The significant increase in housing development is largest in the north of the commune, smallest in the south.|
|5||Miękinia||30 June 2014||Increase in housing development in the east and south-east of the commune||The study makes it a requirement that in an individual new residential quarter or in a single street front, i.e. from intersection to intersection, only buildings of the same type can be constructed.|
|6||Oborniki Śląskie||28 January 2016||Moderate expansion of residential areas on the basis of merging and complementing existing residential areas||In spite of the proposals in the study text, residential housing is almost one quarter of the area of the commune.|
|7||Siechnice||19 August 2010||Development of housing, especially single-family||The study defines basic and complementary types of land development in great detail and identified 757 housing units with an area of 3696 hectares.|
|8||Wisznia Mała||29 December 2009||Increasing the number of housing developments in the municipality by almost 50%||The boundaries of areas designated in the development study are indicative only.|
|9||Żórawina||09 May 2014||A large area of land is allocated to newly renovated buildings||An important proposal regarding the development of the commune is the provision of new housing estates and services.|
In all the communes in the suburban area of Wroclaw included in the study, the population increased in the years 2000–2014 (Fig. 2). This is mainly the effect of increased migration. The positive birth rate in the majority of the communes (negative only in Oborniki Śląskie) made a less significant contribution to the increase in the population of the area. The balance of migration is positive in all the suburban area communes so that more people are arriving than leaving the communes. The total number of migrants is dominated by influx from cities and is primarily connected with the influx of people from Wroclaw who settle in suburban communes because of the lower prices of land and housing than in Wroclaw and the natural attractiveness of the area due to their quietness and tranquillity and to being surrounded by green areas. The intensive migration of the urban population to suburban areas is the main stimulator of the dynamic population growth. During the abovementioned period, the greatest positive migration balance was observed in Czernica commune and the smallest in Oborniki Śląskie.
All of the communes discussed have current studies of the conditions and directions of spatial development (Tab. 1). All were established after 2003. Accordingly, all are drawn up on the basis of the Act on Spatial Planning and Management (Ustawa z dnia 27 marca 2003 r. oplanowaniu izagospodarowaniuprzestrzennym). In connection with the creation of the Act on Regeneration and the Act on Metropolitan relations (Ustawa z dnia 9 października 2015 r. o rewitalizacji, Ustawa z dnia 9 października 2015 r. o związkach metropolitarnych) and as a result of numerous changes in many acts, construction law, and environmental law, many new provisions were introduced into the law on planning and land use. In the studies discussed above they were not taken into account because they had been created before the abovementioned new regulations. The scope of studies of all communes complies with the requirements of the Ordinance of the Minister for Infrastructure of 28 April 2004 on the scope of the project of the study of the conditions and directions of spatial development of the commune (Rozporządzenie Ministra Infrastruktury z dnia 28 kwietnia 2004 r. w sprawie zakresuprojektu studium uwarunkowań i kierunków zagospodarowaniaprzestrzennegogminy). The oldest studies or their changes for the communes in question were made in 2009 and 2010. There are no requirements in the Polish legislation relating to the frequency and scope of changes in the SC&DSM but adopting a new study invalidates an earlier one. Hence communes themselves decide how many years to wait before they update this document. At the same time, it is an increasingly common practice to make changes only to parts of the study (often resulting from investor needs at the lower level of planning), leaving the rest of the records without change. The study seems to be new, containing up- to-date data, but the facts actually described in it are many years old, and it is difficult to build a rational spatial policy at commune level.
In the SC&DSM, communes determine the trends of development of housing in their area. Table 2 shows potential housing development for residential buildings resulting from the records and figures in studies of individual communes in the suburban area of Wroclaw.
Potential building sites in individual communes arising from their studies
|Commune||Population||Area [ha]||Population density [people/km2]||Areas designated for housing||Capacity of the area [number of dwellings]||Potential population||Increase in population after development of all the areas identified in the studies [%]||Possible population density [people/km2]|
The largest development areas are designated by the following communes: Siechnice and Oborniki Śląskie – over 3600 ha each. However, due to the large area of Oborniki Śląskie commune, the percentage of development in the area of the communes is different. The largest coverage of the community housing development is allowed in Siechnice (almost 40% of its area). The housing land use can also cover a large proportion in Czernica (27%) and Oborniki Śląskie (24%). The lowest increase in residential areas is provided by the communes of Kobierzyce and Długołęka – 12.1% and 12.3%, respectively (Fig. 3). This is due to the definition of the real housing opportunities of these areas and the planning of the development of housing in areas where the communes want to develop this land use rather than wherever and whenever the investor decides to do it.
The increase in the area of housing development increases the number of dwellings and inhabitants of individual communes. The largest increase in the number of inhabitants is permitted by the commune of Miękinia and Żórawina (over three times more than the present number of inhabitants). The lowest and at the same time the most realistic increase in population is projected by the communes of Kobierzyce, Długołęka and Siechnice (Fig. 4).
A total of 24265 hectares is allocated for housing development in suburban communes. The capacity of this area is 121326 dwellings based on the assumption that the average size of a parcel will be 2000 m2, which could accommodate more than 327 thousand inhabitants. The area of housing development is similar to that of Wroclaw (29284 ha). It seems impracticable to develop such a large suburban area. The communes allow development on large areas in different parts of their area. This gives investors the freedom to choose the location of the development of buildings. As a result “attracting” an investor to the commune area becomes more important than the preferred location for development.
Due to the intensive development of housing, the number of dwellings in suburban communes has increased in recent years, as has their surface area. This is due to the construction of numerous new high standard buildings. The most dynamically developing form of development in the suburban area is the single-family detached house. Furthermore, semidetached and terraced houses also play an important role in this process. In suburban communes, multi-family housing of low intensity (usually two and three floor) is also built. In rural areas, this is primarily connected with the development of numerous estates by commercial developers.
Unfortunately the development of housing in the suburban zone in Poland has a spontaneous character. The suburban tissue is chaotic and unimaginable in planning terms. The trend to develop the suburban zone is being observed with homogeneous building developments of single-family dwellings. The suburban zone is dynamic and will be developing. It is important that its expansion is controlled and planned as a whole. It is important to identify clear principles and directions of development at the stage of planning action. Perhaps, it is worthwhile returning to the former Utopian ideas and, on the basis of these, to build housing estates where the building development will be more diverse – not only single-family, but also low-density housing in multi-occupancy in the public sphere, services and places of employment that reduce work – home travel requirements.
Drawing up an SC&DSM and updating it is one of the tasks assigned to the authorities of every local commune. Each of the communes located in the vicinity of Wroclaw implements this task within their own spatial policy. Unfortunately, they are not consistent and do not form an overall plan. Each study must be read in isolation because they do not have the same graphic design. The methodology for drawing up these planning documents is also different – depending on the person or company preparing them. Communes do not cooperate with each other when creating their studies. There is no such requirement, but in an area where there is a vicious, chaotic and uncontrolled process of suburbanisation, it is important to focus and control this phenomenon in order to prevent spatial conflict and the negative, difficult to reverse effects of the process.
The results of observations and analyses suggest that the communes are continuing to focus more on meeting the needs of investors rather than on rational housing development in their areas. This is reflected in providing numerous facilities to encourage people to invest in their area. This will result in the emergence of more housing estates which are disorganised in planning terms, and which will only be dormitories for their residents. On this premise, residential housing developments are to be modern and exclusive. However, very often, because of the desire to get the most profit, investors do not care about the proper infrastructure and living conditions of future residents. On the other hand, the commune authorities make this practice possible through their spatial policy.
In view of the strong suburbanisation processes in the area neighbouring a large city such as Wroclaw, spatial planning is a matter of particular importance. The policy of local government authorities is an element that shapes the possibilities for the development of particular land uses in suburban communes, deciding on their form, intensity and scope. Housing decisions are of particular importance because they affect the social transformations taking place in a given area. It is important that they are comprehensive and based on the conclusions of a thorough analysis based on a wide time horizon.
The activities of local government should not be limited to planning within their borders. They should pay attention to a broader concept of planning in areas where the same phenomenon is occurring. Suburban communes should work together and take into account the conditions that exist in their neighbouring areas. In the case discussed, the suburban zone should create plans, which are cohesive, significant and implement a comprehensive development policy in the commuter belt in relation to housing provision. This would reduce or eliminate spatial conflicts at the borders of administrative units and would influence the residential quality of life of these areas considerably as well as preventing many problems: spatial, infrastructural, social. This would also improve the process of preventing the adverse effects of urbanisation.
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