The main goal of the project is to support municipalities to design, implement, and fund green infrastructure projects through the "Landscape Park Co-funding Competition". The concept of the "Landscape Park" embeds the integration of green infrastructure into the overall development of the region and underlines its potential as a locational factor that is worth preserving and improving. Furthermore, enhancing and interweaving open spaces will significantly contribute to the increase of the quality of life of the communities as well as maintain the attractiveness of the area.
The project is led and financed by the Verband Region Stuttgart (VRS) and its directly elected Regional Assembly, which supports 179 municipalities within the Stuttgart region. Until now, even though nearly half of the municipalities have participated in the competition, there is still a number of them that do not count with enough human or financial resources to participate, while others (especially in the rural areas) do not feel the need to enhance its green infrastructure network as their current natural environment is already quite attractive.
Together with the municipalities and other stakeholders, the VRS elaborates master plans that aim to enhance the green network of the region. In order to support these ideas, the VRS has implemented a regional fund to finance up to 50% of the costs of the Landscape Park projects. Every year the VRS calls on the 179 local councils to encourage them to submit their proposals and therefore, bid for these funds. The projects are then selected through a competition with the region assuming up to 50% of the implementation costs.
The master plans are co-produced by groups of 8-28 municipalities and even though this process does not involve individual citizens, it includes workshops in which a large variety of actors can join (including political decision makers and planning experts from municipalities, other agencies and authorities with planning competence, NGOs and civil society).
The concepts and ideas for the Landscape Park are derived from measures that are already included in the master plans and cover different areas of the region. Thus, the project is connected to the regional and local political level, where the master plans have to be approved not only by the Regional Assembly but also by the city councils of the cooperating municipalities. Lastly, are the local and regional councils who have to decide whether projects are funded or not.
It took quite a long time to achieve the corresponding legal competences. In this regard, while the VRS was allowed to plan the Landscape Park project in 1999, it was not until 2005 that it could start co-financing the project.
The directly elected Regional Assembly, the political body whose decisions build on strong political legitimation, constitutes a key institutional resource. Furthermore, this body is responsible not only for facilitating the financial resources that support the Landscape Park projects, but also for deciding about the disposition of these funds, and thus, steering regional development. The budget comes in the form of an administrative levy and it is to be paid annually by all local authorities. Since 2005 the VRS has invested around €15 million in overall capital expenditure, which has generated total investments of about 45 million euros. Nevertheless, as the VRS is only allowed to fund up to 50% of the costs, on some occasions it would be helpful to be able to support some municipalities with a higher percentage of co-funding.
The strong political will of the Regional Assembly to enhance the green infrastructure of the region, and therefore to apply to the corresponding legal competences, constituted a key factor to the success of the project. In addition, the support from the state of Baden-Württemberg to achieve this goal led to the expansion of those competences.
By August 2016, around 160 Green Infrastructure projects have been implemented such as cycle paths, hiking trails, lookout points, restored river courses and different leisure areas. These projects have different functions such as enhancing biodiversity (e.g. river restoration), supporting sustainable mobility (e.g. biking paths), promoting environmental and cultural education (e.g. nature experience paths, industrial heritage route), improving local climate(e.g. parks with trees)and providing leisure areas for all kind of users.
The already implemented Green Infrastructure projects contribute to improving the quality of life on the local and regional level and configure an important locational factor for the region. Furthermore, the Landscape Park is an instrument of regional development. By this step by step approach, it succeeds in regenerating green areas for natural and social functions and helps drawing attention to the diverse benefits of Green Infrastructure.
"The success of the project had three crucial factors; A regional authority with a clear catalogue of tasks by law which go beyond the boundaries of the local and districts authority, a strong elected political body that sets and legitimise the regional development goal, and availability of resources that facilitates the implementation of the project."
Silvia Weidenbacher, VRS