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: In this paper, we explore how master planning promotes and implements particular urban development patterns and, more generally, contributes to sustainability. Our goal is to understand the link between urban growth intentions articulated through the master planning process and realisation of its specific forms, e.g., monocentric or polycentric, compact or dispersed. As a case study, we examine the current General Urban Development Plan (GUDP) of the Bulgarian capital Sofia against the city’s actual development pattern. We observe that the primary goals of the GUDP are to promote a polycentric urban structure and low-density expansion, as well as preserve green edges. While the question of whether and how these goals reflect the sustainability ideal requires further consideration, there are some indications that Sofia’s GUDP may not be effective in encouraging sustainable forms of growth. Substantial inconsistencies exist between the plan’s overall goals and some of its measures and implementation tools. The results on the ground suggest that, despite the plan’s low-density aspirations, Sofia is becoming more compact and densified, while losing its green edges and failing to redirect growth to its northern territories where ample space and opportunities exist. We conclude that employing the achievements of research on sustainability and developing relevant implementation tools such as more effective zoning regulations and viable suburban transportation infrastructure are necessary for realising both the patterns proposed through master planning and achieving sustainable urban growth. Keywords: efficiency of planning; sustainable forms of urban growth; polycentric urban development; suburbanisation in Southeastern Europe; instruments of urban planning
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sustainability
Article
The Challenges of Implementing Sustainable
Development: The Case of Sofia’s Master Plan
Aleksandar D. Slaev 1, * and Zorica Nedovic-Budic 2,3
1Faculty of Architecture, Varna Free University, Varna 9007, Bulgaria
2School of Architecture, Planning & Environmental Policy, University College Dublin, Dublin 14, Ireland;
znb.ucd@gmail.com
3
Department of Urban Planning and Policy, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL 60607, USA; nbzorica@uic.edu
*Correspondence: slaev@vfu.bg
Academic Editors: Patricia Romero-Lankao, Olga Wilhelmi and Mary Hayden
Received: 16 June 2016; Accepted: 8 December 2016; Published: 23 December 2016
Abstract:
In this paper, we explore how master planning promotes and implements particular urban
development patterns and, more generally, contributes to sustainability. Our goal is to understand the
link between urban growth intentions articulated through the master planning process and realisation
of its specific forms, e.g., monocentric or polycentric, compact or dispersed. As a case study, we
examine the current General Urban Development Plan (GUDP) of the Bulgarian capital Sofia against
the city’s actual development pattern. We observe that the primary goals of the GUDP are to promote
a polycentric urban structure and low-density expansion, as well as preserve green edges. While the
question of whether and how these goals reflect the sustainability ideal requires further consideration,
there are some indications that Sofia’s GUDP may not be effective in encouraging sustainable forms
of growth. Substantial inconsistencies exist between the plan’s overall goals and some of its measures
and implementation tools. The results on the ground suggest that, despite the plan’s low-density
aspirations, Sofia is becoming more compact and densified, while losing its green edges and failing to
redirect growth to its northern territories where ample space and opportunities exist. We conclude that
employing the achievements of research on sustainability and developing relevant implementation
tools such as more effective zoning regulations and viable suburban transportation infrastructure are
necessary for realising both the patterns proposed through master planning and achieving sustainable
urban growth.
Keywords:
efficiency of planning; sustainable forms of urban growth; polycentric urban development;
suburbanisation in Southeastern Europe; instruments of urban planning
1. Introduction
About a quarter of a century ago, the Brundtland Report [
1
] and Agenda 21 [
2
] gave a powerful
impetus to the idea of sustainability, highlighting the importance of preserving natural resources and
balancing environmental, social and economic issues. Urban growth and its forms are closely related
to sustainability because they involve the consumption of natural resources such as land, biodiversity,
and non-renewable sources of energy. In recent decades researchers have been particularly interested
in studying two forms of growth: dispersed expansion, i.e., sprawl, and polycentricity. Sprawl,
as a low-density and dispersed form of urban expansion, is generally considered to be a threat to
sustainability: it is characterised by overconsumption of land and natural amenities, inefficient modes
of transit, overdevelopment of expensive infrastructure and car dependency. Researchers maintain that
the negative aspects of sprawl can be neutralised through promoting polycentricity [
3
5
]. Polycentric
urban areas are compact yet separated—or, rather, connected—by large green areas and enclaves; thus
Sustainability 2017,9, 15; doi:10.3390/su9010015 www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Sustainability 2017,9, 15 2 of 19
land resources are used economically, and urban and green environments are integrated. Polycentricity
provides for economical use of land and savings in investment and energy.
Despite the considerable achievements of sustainability research, major problems arise in their
application. In Europe, for instance, scientists have long warned of the problems of sprawl, and the
European Environment Agency [
3
] identified it as a major threat to sustainable development. Still,
cities continue to exhibit inefficient development patterns [
6
]. In most parts of the European continent,
sprawl remains one of the major causes of the degradation of natural capital [
7
] and high rates of
soil sealing [
8
]. These facts suggest a great difficulty of incorporating the insights from sustainability
research into planning practice. Studies on the performance and efficiency of planning [
9
11
] have
found that planners often fail to establish proper planning goals consistent with the findings of research
on urban development and market trends. The planners face even greater difficulties in devising
relevant tree structures of sub-goals, planning measures and solutions. Finally, they are least successful
in the elaboration of implementation tools [11].
Therefore, to promote sustainable urban growth, planning would need to manage two challenges:
(1) how to choose the proper form of growth by defining relevant development goals and (2) how to
realise these goals—i.e., implement the intended urban form. Clearly, if planning fails in either of these
two challenges, it cannot facilitate improvements in urban sustainability. Studies focusing on the first
challenge—i.e., aiming to define the proper form of growth—are abundant. In this paper, we focus
on the second challenge to planning—the ability to achieve development goals by implementing the
intended form of urban growth. We discuss concepts of sustainable urban form as the premise for
studying the alignment between goals established in master planning documents and their realisation
through urban development.
As a case study, we analyse the current General Urban Development Plan (GUDP) of the Bulgarian
capital Sofia (prepared 1998–2003 and enforced from 2007) and we evaluate the plan’s performance
and effectiveness in achieving the defined forms of urban development. Sofia is a suitable case study
because, like other large cities in Southeastern (SE) Europe [
5
], following the fall of communism,
between 2001 and 2011 it experienced a substantial growth of the city’s population (10.3%) [
12
].
Similarly to many other world regions, growth in SE Europe is realised through expansion and
suburbanisation [
13
15
]. Sofia is thus a typical example of a SE European suburbanising city [
13
],
although the trends also exhibit certain local peculiarities [15,16].
The paper proceeds first with a brief discussion of basic theoretical issues concerning the forms of
growth. Then we explore the GUDP of Sofia by identifying what type of growth the plan promotes.
To analyse the provisions of the GUDP concerning the form of urban growth and its realisation in
practice, we pose the following questions:
What is the general position of the GUDP on the form of urban growth, as set forth in its
form-related goals?
Are the provisions and solutions outlined by the GUDP consistent with the plan’s goals regarding
the form of urban growth?
Is the GUDP succeeding in promoting an intended form of urban growth?
The ultimate aim of our study is to understand whether planning in principle and Sofia’s master
plan in particular is able to promote the desired form of growth as a way to achieve urban sustainability.
We explore the importance of the plan’s performance for sustainable urban development.
2. Literature Review: Urban Growth, Planning and Implementation
In this section, we first outline the main forms of urban growth in terms of structure and
compactness with their advantages and disadvantages. We also discuss how planning can realise
intended forms of growth through implementation process and tools. This literature review informs
the methodology we use to analyse Sofia’s master plan and its performance.
Sustainability 2017,9, 15 3 of 19
2.1. Urban Growth and Forms: Structure and Compactness
2.1.1. Structure
Monocentric structure is a traditional and well-researched urban form. In his pioneering work of
1925 Burgess [
17
] defines the monocentric city by its dominant centrally located business district (CBD)
and a series of zones in concentric circles around it. In 1945, Harris and Ullman [
18
] contribute to this
concept by introducing the “multi nuclei” model in which cities are still characterised by a single major
CBD, but smaller centres (nuclei) develop in peripheral areas. Although the studies focused on the
monocentric city model prevailed until the 1970s [
19
], the phenomenon of polycentricity originated
in the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century—with the work of Ebenezer
Howard on garden cities (1898, 1902) and Christaller’s central place theory (1933). Yet defining
a polycentric urban system could be challenging. Morphologically, polycentric systems comprise
multiple urban centres/nodes [
19
], but this is the only feature on which researchers agree. Hall [
20
]
finds that “polycentricity can occur at multiple levels or spatial scales, and what is monocentric at
one level can be polycentric at another—and vice versa”. The ESPON 1.1.1 Report [
21
] defines three
levels of European polycentric structures: macro (intra-regional), meso (interregional) and macro
(European). Davoudi [
19
] also notes the differences in the meaning of polycentricityin different
contexts and at different scales. She distinguishes between three scales: intra-urban (“characterized
by the development of multiple sub-centres within one built up area”), inter-urban (“characterized
by separate and distinct cities or smaller settlement which interact with each other to a significant
extent”) and inter-regional scales (referring to the concepts of megalopolis and polynucleated urban
field). The first two scales are relevant to our case study: the intra-urban scale refers to internal urban
structure, and the inter-urban scale refers to the municipal urban region.
The analysis of the functioning of polycentric systems at different levels/scales highlights the
role of hierarchy. Urban systems with clear hierarchal structures dominated by one city are generally
considered monocentric [
22
]. However, the links between the lower-tier nuclei could be complex even
in the context of monocentricity and single hierarchical structure. The criteria used to define a centre
helps us distinguish between monocentric and polycentric urban forms. Davoudi’s definitions suggest
that a centre or a node is characterised by a higher intensity of urban functions and higher population
and development densities. Morphologically, polycentric nodes are urban forms/settlements with
high densities [
23
] (p. 6). Functionally, a criterion introduced by OECD [
22
,
24
] and adopted by the
European Commission (EC) [
25
] emphasises the intensity of urban functions—namely, the provision
of jobs attracting employees from other nodes in a polycentric system [22].
2.1.2. Compactness
Another dimension of urban form is defined by compactness. As a result of various historical
factors, cities around the world have evolved in either compact or dispersed urban forms [
26
]. Compact
cities are consistently characterised by high densities. By comparing the densities of 52 metropolitan
areas, Bertaud [
27
] (pp. 9–10) finds that densities of cities around the world differ substantially—from
about 6 persons/ha in some American cities (e.g., Atlanta) to 360–390 persons/ha in Seoul, Guangzhou,
Hong Kong and Mumbai. Bertaud thus observes that “densities (are) strongly influenced by cultural
factors” [
27
] (p. 9). Similarly, for cultural but also other reasons, densities vary considerably even
within a single continent, e.g., within Europe [
28
]. But as Bertaud notes, the cities he studied “are all
reasonably successful”, so he concludes that “there is no ‘right’, ‘correct’, ‘manageable’ or ‘acceptable’
range of density per se” [
27
] (p. 10). Indeed, low densities are not necessarily inefficient on their own,
but mostly in cases when they are manifested as urban sprawl or lacking adequate transport or other
infrastructural support.
As a type of urban form, sprawl is synonymous with dispersion. Dispersed or sprawling urban
forms are the opposite of compact: they are “patchy, scattered and strung out, with a tendency for
discontinuity” [
1
] (p. 6); they may also follow ribbon-like or leap-frogging patterns [
29
,
30
]. Besides
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its physical appearance as a dispersed low-density urban form, sprawl is a complex phenomenon,
generally considered inefficient and unsustainable. Sprawl is criticised for high car dependence, lack of
public transit-based access to jobs and services, extensive demand for infrastructure, absence of vibrant
local centres and public spaces, high levels of social segregation and, above all, overconsumption
of natural resources [
3
,
29
33
]. From this point of view, sprawl is defined as “excessive spatial
growth” [33,34]
consuming disproportionate amounts of natural resources [
3
,
34
,
35
] such as land,
raw materials, non-renewable sources of energy, natural amenities and biodiversity, and thus in
conflict with the Brundtland definition of sustainability.
Thus far, we have identified two characteristics that define urban form: spatial structure
(monocentricity versus polycentricity) and compactness (compact versus dispersed forms). Both compact
and dispersed cities/systems may be monocentric or polycentric, and, therefore, four combinations are
possible: monocentric-compact, monocentric-dispersed, polycentric-compact and polycentric-dispersed.
Yet distinguishing between monocentric-dispersed and polycentric-dispersed forms may be difficult
when the system is organised around one dominant centre. A polycentric-dispersed form is easy to
identify when the system is dominated by two or more cores at the highest tier. But if only one major
centre dominates the system (as in the case of Sofia), then this structure should be defined either as
polycentric-compact when the lower-tier nodes are strong enough to form secondary centres, or as
monocentric-dispersed when the nodes are small and weak and cannot be clearly distinguished from
the dispersed grains. Therefore, in systems dominated by one centre which is much stronger than the
lower-tier nodes, the polycentric-dispersed type has little relevance. In such systems (of which Sofia is
one example), three rather than four options can be identified: monocentric (when the lower-tier nodes
are too weak), polycentric-hierarchal (when the lower-tier nodes form strong sub-centres) and dispersed.
Again, our goal is not to discuss whether the three forms of growth are properly evaluated as
sustainable or not. Rather, we explore whether planning is able to utilise the findings of research on
sustainability and be effective in establishing and implementing urban development goals.
2.2. Linking Planning Goals and Their Implementation
Because urban development is a complex process involving many factors and actors, establishing
sound planning goals which are based on scientific knowledge and appropriate to local circumstances
and needs is of great importance. However, even when it stipulates relevant and well-defined goals,
planning sometimes fails to ensure their realisation. The difficulties in balancing urban development
and regulating sprawl in Europe [
7
,
36
38
] are illustrative of this problem. The efficacy of urban
planning is an even greater issue in the countries of Eastern and Southeastern Europe, given their lack
of experience in planning under market conditions. In a market society, the realisation of plans is more
challenging because it depends on the actions of numerous market players [
16
,
38
41
] and the plans’
effectiveness in realising the goals.
To perform well, an urban plan should not be a static statement of ultimate goals, but rather
a dynamic tool of governance. Thus the preparation and implementation of a plan form a cycle of
management [
42
,
43
]. According to Taylor [
9
] each cycle comprises several phases: (1) analysis of the
current situation; (2) definition of the main planning goals; (3) elaboration of a tree of goals, sub-goals,
and planning measures/solutions; and (4) development of a system of implementation tools. Finally,
once the plan is used for guiding urban development, its implementation should be monitored and
evaluated so that planning can be improved in the next cycle. According to Slaev [
11
,
44
], the number
of errors in plans tends to grow with each subsequent phase within a planning cycle. In examining six
regional and master plans, he observes that, despite occasional omissions and mistakes in the analysis
of ongoing urban development, market forces and trends, planners usually are most successful in the
first phase. Problems are more likely to emerge in the second phase, and there are further issues in
the process of developing implementation tools and employing instruments of monitoring and policy
control. This is because each subsequent phase compounds the shortcomings of the previous phases,
and a cumulative effect is created. While these observations may seem obvious, they are generally
Sustainability 2017,9, 15 5 of 19
neglected in planning practice, and planners as a rule pay the least attention to the most difficult and
problematic phases of the planning cycle. Similar conclusions are drawn by Waldner [45].
Getting more specifically into the issue of implementation of plans, Bertaud [
10
] argues that
urban governance and planning should be focused on creating a framework within which the urban
market may function. This framework includes three categories: land-use regulations; the primary
infrastructure; and local fees and taxes. Detailing these categories, Webster et al. [
46
] outline more
than a dozen measures and tools of governance that may be used to enhance the land use efficiency in
periurban areas. These measures are: market-based determination of land prices; growth or service
boundaries; standardised tools for assessment of farmland; zoning standards and floor area ratios
(FARs) aimed to promote hierarchy of nodes; development of mass transit systems; regulations for
auctioning industrial land; strengthening of urban property rights; rules for brown-field redevelopment;
impact fees; FAR standards to induce higher suburban densities; awareness-raising among developers
and consumers regarding the value of access; green space designation; and infrastructure planning.
The efficacy of urban planning is measured by two approaches: conformance-based and
performance-based methods. The former focus on the conformance between the plan’s goals and
the actual spatial outputs [
47
]. The latter are concerned with the plan’s outcomes as well as other
impacts [
48
,
49
]. Faludi [
49
] maintains that the conformance approach is more appropriate for
evaluating project-oriented plans. In this paper, we assess whether an implemented plan is achieving
its (defined) goals, and, therefore, we employ the conformance-based approach. Further, the focus
of Sofia’s master plan on polycentricity requires consideration of planning methods and instruments
that can contribute to polycentric growth. Density is an important factor for polycentricity [
23
] (p. 19),
insofar as it is difficult for low-density nodes to attract commercial and public services and jobs, and
“weak” nodes tend to be more dispersed. Urban cores in polycentric systems are also characterised
by well-developed services and a mix of uses. To this end, zoning regulations allowing for higher
densities and mixed uses are essential. However, transport connections are just as important. It is well
known that car dependency is a key feature of urban dispersion/sprawl [
4
,
50
], whereas efficient public
transit systems are a key factor in “captur(ing) the benefits of high densities” and polycentric form [
51
]
(p. 68), [
52
,
53
]. Therefore, we identify two instruments used to promote high-density polycentric
structure: (1) zoning laws/regulations, which foster a system of high-density mixed-use nodes; and
(2) development of public transit infrastructure and networks.
3. Methodology
The empirical part of this research employs a case study of Sofia’s master plan which is evaluated
against the city’s urban development trends and patterns. We first present the information on Sofia’s
historically established urban structure. Next, we address the first question about the intended form
of growth and the second question on the plan’s promotion of the particular form by examining the
details of Sofia’s master plan (GUDP). We identify the plan’s goals in relation to urban form and
investigate the coherence between the goals and the measures and instruments of planning employed
to realise these goals: the zoning regulations and the planned development of transportation networks
and infrastructure. To find out whether the results on the ground over the past years reflect the GUDP’s
goals, we analyse the actual urban development in suburban areas.
To measure the form of growth (monocentric, polycentric or dispersed), we use three indicators:
population (residential) density, rate of monocentricity, and perimeter-to-area ratio. Density is a
commonly used and instrumental indicator for this purpose. However, we underline the importance of
availability of data relevant to the scale of polycentricity, as the data on densities should be available for
the units considered for measuring the urban structure. In Sofia population data are available only at
the level of a district, which prevents identification of nodes within a district. In addition to supporting
the assessment of urban structure (monocentric vs polycentric), density can be used to investigate
compactness especially when suburban forms are analysed [
23
]. Growing suburban densities suggest
increase in compactness, whereas decreasing densities suggest a trend toward dispersion.
Sustainability 2017,9, 15 6 of 19
To determine the structural feature of monocentricity/polycentricity, we employ an indicator
that we term the “rate of monocentricity”. This is the share of the population living in the urban core.
This indicator is useful for our study insofar as very high levels of monocentricity limit the potential for
polycentric development. Understanding the relationship between monocentricity and polycentricity
is important for this research, because one of the main goals of Sofia’s master plan is to reduce the city’s
monocentricity and promote polycentricity. While it may be possible to have a strong dominant centre
and still have a high degree of polycentricity, very high levels of monocentricity limit the possibility
of polycentric development, especially if dispersed small settlements prevail in the suburban region.
If, for instance, in a system with one dominant city and many small settlements, 80% or 90% of the
population live in the urban core, secondary nodes can hardly compete with the dominant one to attract
employees (as suggested with the OECD/EC criterion). In Sofia’s case, there are three small towns and
33 villages in the municipal territory (which coincides with the city’s urban region). A settlement that
is much smaller than the dominant city can play the role of a grain in a dispersed urban form, but not
of a node in a polycentric system. Therefore, if a plan maintains very high levels of monocentricity
(e.g., 80% or more), then we have grounds to conclude that it cannot effectively promote polycentricity.
Therefore, whereas the rate of monocentricity is only a rough indicator and an approximation, it can
be useful for studying urban systems with very strong dominant centres like Sofia.
We measure the compactness/dispersion feature using the perimeter-to-area ratio. This is the
ratio between the perimeter, i.e., the total length of the outer boundaries of all urbanised zones
(nuclei/cores) and their total area. “Outer boundaries”, are all boundaries with non-urban lands.
The perimeter-to-area ratio is a common indicator used in many studies [
54
56
] to measure the level of
fragmentation (dispersion). More fragmented urban forms are characterised by a larger number of
smaller nuclei, which increases the length of the outer boundaries. In contrast, more compact urban
forms are characterised by a smaller number of nuclei, which generally enclose larger urban areas, and
result to a lower total length of outer boundaries. Higher values of the perimeter-to-area ratio indicate
high dispersion, and lower values indicate high compactness.
Calculations to measure urban form and growth are performed using data from the National
Statistical Institute (NSI) [
12
], Census 2011, the Cadastre Agency, Sofia’s municipal planning company
Sofproekt, and the Corine Land Cover datasets available for download from the European Environment
Agency. Data are manipulated at the urban and district levels. The territory of Sofia Metropolitan
Municipality contains 24 city districts, and data are available by district (Figure 1). We distinguish
between the southern and the northern suburban districts, because, as we explain later in the paper,
the planning goals, urban features of and trends in these two suburban regions differ substantially.
Whereas the picturesque areas at the foot of Vitosha Mountain adjacent to Vitosha Natural Park in
the southern areas are particularly attractive to new residents [
13
], lands to the north of the city have
a predominantly agricultural character and have proved to be of much less interest. Two districts,
Ovcha kupel (a southern district) and Vrabnitsa (a northern district), are “mixed” urban-suburban.
Sustainability 2017,9, 15 7 of 19
Sustainability 2017, 9, 15 7 of 19
Figure 1. Map of Sofia Metropolitan Municipality and its suburban districts. Prepared by the authors
based on a map from Sofproekt (Sofia municipality’s planning body) [57]. Reproduced with
permission from Sofproekt. Note: Sofia Metropolitan Municipality shown in this map is the scope of
the General Urban Development Plan.
4. Analysis, Results and Discussion
4.1. Sofia’s Growth and Urban Form before the Current 2007 Master Plan
In 1879, when Sofia was proclaimed the capital city after Bulgaria’s liberation from the Ottoman
Empire, its population was only about 20,000. By 1939, its population reached 400,000 [12]. In this
period, Sofia developed a strong monocentric urban structure, typical of European cities at the time.
Over the next half a century, the city’s population grew to reach 1,200,000 by 1985. The main reason
for this substantial increase was the so-called economic policy of “socialist industrialisation”, which
boosted the rates of rural-to-urban migration and urbanisation and related need for new housing.
Under the conditions of state socialism in Bulgaria, high rates of housing construction could be
achieved only by prefab construction technologies. The large state plants for prefab housing needed
vast undeveloped territories, which were found at the urban periphery. The new peripherally located
estates of prefab housing were developed at high densities [13,15,16], and reinforced the monocentric
structure of the city.
Following the fall of communism in 1989, the new political and economic conditions in the
period of transition to a market society resulted in radical changes in the processes of urban
development. Due to tentative and incomplete political reforms, the crisis of the transition in Bulgaria
lasted for more than a decade, and the economy experienced major difficulties [58]. The overall rates
Figure 1. Map of Sofia Metropolitan Municipality and its suburban districts. Prepared by the authors
based on a map from Sofproekt (Sofia municipality’s planning body) [
57
]. Reproduced with permission
from Sofproekt. Note: Sofia Metropolitan Municipality shown in this map is the scope of the General
Urban Development Plan.
4. Analysis, Results and Discussion
4.1. Sofia’s Growth and Urban Form before the Current 2007 Master Plan
In 1879, when Sofia was proclaimed the capital city after Bulgaria’s liberation from the Ottoman
Empire, its population was only about 20,000. By 1939, its population reached 400,000 [
12
]. In this
period, Sofia developed a strong monocentric urban structure, typical of European cities at the time.
Over the next half a century, the city’s population grew to reach 1,200,000 by 1985. The main reason
for this substantial increase was the so-called economic policy of “socialist industrialisation”, which
boosted the rates of rural-to-urban migration and urbanisation and related need for new housing.
Under the conditions of state socialism in Bulgaria, high rates of housing construction could be
achieved only by prefab construction technologies. The large state plants for prefab housing needed
vast undeveloped territories, which were found at the urban periphery. The new peripherally located
estates of prefab housing were developed at high densities [
13
,
15
,
16
], and reinforced the monocentric
structure of the city.
Following the fall of communism in 1989, the new political and economic conditions in the period
of transition to a market society resulted in radical changes in the processes of urban development.
Due to tentative and incomplete political reforms, the crisis of the transition in Bulgaria lasted for
more than a decade, and the economy experienced major difficulties [
58
]. The overall rates of Sofia’s
urban development decreased during this time [
12
,
59
]. Figure 2depicts the population trends in
Sustainability 2017,9, 15 8 of 19
the municipality (which coincides with Sofia’s urban region)—the compact urban centre and the
suburban settlements—towns, villages and suburbs. Evidently, the only increase is recorded in the
southern suburban districts. The “rate of monocentricity” indicator shows a minor decrease of 3.16%
between 1985 and 2001, confirming that Sofia remains to be highly monocentric. The capital city
(population of 1,208,930) is about one hundred times larger than the largest of the other settlements in
the Sofia Metropolitan Municipality—Novi Iskar (13,619) and Bankya (8950).
Sustainability 2017, 9, 15 8 of 19
of Sofia’s urban development decreased during this time [12,59]. Figure 2 depicts the population
trends in the municipality (which coincides with Sofia’s urban region)—the compact urban centre
and the suburban settlements—towns, villages and suburbs. Evidently, the only increase is recorded
in the southern suburban districts. The “rate of monocentricity” indicator shows a minor decrease of
3.16% between 1985 and 2001, confirming that Sofia remains to be highly monocentric. The capital
city (population of 1,208,930) is about one hundred times larger than the largest of the other
settlements in the Sofia Metropolitan Municipality—Novi Iskar (13,619) and Bankya (8950).
Figure 2. Number of residents in the compact city and in suburban areas, 1985–2001. Source: diagram
prepared by the authors, based on data from NSI, 2012 [12] (pp. 18–34).
4.2. The General Urban Development Plan (GUDP)’s Position on Forms of Growth
The current master plan of Sofia was developed between 1998 and 2003. It was adopted by the
Parliament in 2007. An amendment of the GUDP was undertaken and completed in 2009. The plan
covers the whole of Sofia Metropolitan Municipality, which generally coincides with Sofia’s urban
region.
In this section, we answer our first question: What is the general position of the GUDP on the
form of urban growth, as set forth in its form-related goals?
4.2.1. Compactness
For the preparation of the most recent plan, a competition was organised by Sofia Metropolitan
Municipality in 1998. At the final stage, two plans promoted two alternative concepts of
development: one expansionary and one compact. The expansionary concept won. This was due to
the prevailing perception among planners that Sofia needed to balance the “overdevelopment” of
“the territory of the [compact] city of Sofia” by boosting development in the “underdeveloped”
suburban areas, especially in the northern territories [60] (p. 19). The plan therefore aims to restrict
growth in central areas and promote both polycentric and low-density dispersed suburban forms.
Another key reason the GUDP aims to create “new markets for single-family housing” and promotes
low-density expansion is the view that the city lacks areas for “high-category” habitation to meet the
needs of “the growing middle class” [61] (pp. 25–26).
Still other provisions of the GUDP balance the expansionary vision with other planning goals.
The ecology section calls for an economical use of land, maintaining that land and water are an
“absolutely limited resource” [60] (p. 147) and requiring “restrictions on the territorial expansion of
settlements in Sofia valley” (i.e., the northern areas), as well as controlling the expansion in the
southern territories to preserve the large green areas (known as “green edges”) between the city and
Figure 2.
Number of residents in the compact city and in suburban areas, 1985–2001. Source: diagram
prepared by the authors, based on data from NSI, 2012 [12] (pp. 18–34).
4.2. The General Urban Development Plan (GUDP)’s Position on Forms of Growth
The current master plan of Sofia was developed between 1998 and 2003. It was adopted by the
Parliament in 2007. An amendment of the GUDP was undertaken and completed in 2009. The plan covers
the whole of Sofia Metropolitan Municipality, which generally coincides with Sofia’s urban region.
In this section, we answer our first question: What is the general position of the GUDP on the
form of urban growth, as set forth in its form-related goals?
4.2.1. Compactness
For the preparation of the most recent plan, a competition was organised by Sofia Metropolitan
Municipality in 1998. At the final stage, two plans promoted two alternative concepts of development:
one expansionary and one compact. The expansionary concept won. This was due to the prevailing
perception among planners that Sofia needed to balance the “overdevelopment” of “the territory of the
[compact] city of Sofia” by boosting development in the “underdeveloped” suburban areas, especially
in the northern territories [
60
] (p. 19). The plan therefore aims to restrict growth in central areas and
promote both polycentric and low-density dispersed suburban forms. Another key reason the GUDP
aims to create “new markets for single-family housing” and promotes low-density expansion is the
view that the city lacks areas for “high-category” habitation to meet the needs of “the growing middle
class” [61] (pp. 25–26).
Still other provisions of the GUDP balance the expansionary vision with other planning goals.
The ecology section calls for an economical use of land, maintaining that land and water are an
“absolutely limited resource” [
60
] (p. 147) and requiring “restrictions on the territorial expansion
of settlements in Sofia valley” (i.e., the northern areas), as well as controlling the expansion in the
southern territories to preserve the large green areas (known as “green edges”) between the city and
Vitosha Natural Park. These are the instances of the plan where the limits to the city’s expansion are
suggested, to some extent in contradiction to the overall expansion concept.
Sustainability 2017,9, 15 9 of 19
Regarding urban sustainability, in a number of places the GUDP refers to the need to comply with
the “imperatives of sustainable development” [
60
] (p. 41) and to provide for ecological balance [
60
]
(pp. 147–149, 313), sustainability of the living environment [
60
] (p. 102, 104, 113) and sustainability of
urban landscapes [
60
] (p. 37, 110, 150). Although the plan declares the need for sustainability, it never
accounts for how the same would be impacted by particular types of urban growth. In general, the GUDP
does not explicitly consider the nature, causes, and ecological and social implications of contemporary
suburbanisation. In fact, the text of the GUDP does not mention the term “suburbanisation”, or “sprawl”.
4.2.2. Structure
The concept of polycentricity as a form of growth has been often revisited in Sofia’s master plans.
The plans of 1937, 1948 and 1961—as well as the present GUDP—follow that tradition. In this most
recent plan, polycentric structure is considered a “fundamental principle in the organization of the
territory” [
61
] (p. 19). However, due to the existing dominance of the capital city of Sofia, this has to
be a polycentric system with one (extremely) prevailing centre. The plan treats the urban structure
both at the intra-urban level and the inter-urban level of the urban region. Polycentricity is considered
mainly at the intra-urban level where the sub-centres are higher-density multi-functional nodes within
the compact city and their role is primarily in service provision. Although the GUDP also designates
lands for suburban centres at the level of the urban region, i.e., outside the compact city, the issues of
inter-urban polycentricity are not explicitly forwarded.
The GUDP does not elaborate on the aims of the intra-urban polycentric development, but it
emphasises the need to change the existing “strong monocentric” urban form. The plan aspires to foster
“macrospatial restructuring of the city” by means of “remodelling the existing monocentric structure
of the city towards a more polycentric one, within the scope of several spatial variations: point, linear
or mixed centres, unified by one spatial network” [
60
] (p. 103). The projected “macrostructure units”
are in effect five axes of development along five radiant transportation corridors, “along which the
city opens outward, coupled by a gradual spilling out (or reallocation) of functions and services from
the central city towards the secondary service centres in the periphery” [
61
] (pp. 29–31). This rather
complicated vision is presented in Figures 3and 4.
Sustainability 2017, 9, 15 9 of 19
Vitosha Natural Park. These are the instances of the plan where the limits to the city’s expansion are
suggested, to some extent in contradiction to the overall expansion concept.
Regarding urban sustainability, in a number of places the GUDP refers to the need to comply
with the “imperatives of sustainable development” [60] (p. 41) and to provide for ecological balance
[60] (pp. 147–149, 313), sustainability of the living environment [60] (p. 102, 104, 113) and
sustainability of urban landscapes [60] (p. 37, 110, 150). Although the plan declares the need for
sustainability, it never accounts for how the same would be impacted by particular types of urban
growth. In general, the GUDP does not explicitly consider the nature, causes, and ecological and
social implications of contemporary suburbanisation. In fact, the text of the GUDP does not mention
the term “suburbanisation”, or “sprawl”.
4.2.2. Structure
The concept of polycentricity as a form of growth has been often revisited in Sofia’s master plans.
The plans of 1937, 1948 and 1961—as well as the present GUDP—follow that tradition. In this most
recent plan, polycentric structure is considered a “fundamental principle in the organization of the
territory” [61] (p. 19). However, due to the existing dominance of the capital city of Sofia, this has to
be a polycentric system with one (extremely) prevailing centre. The plan treats the urban structure
both at the intra-urban level and the inter-urban level of the urban region. Polycentricity is considered
mainly at the intra-urban level where the sub-centres are higher-density multi-functional nodes
within the compact city and their role is primarily in service provision. Although the GUDP also
designates lands for suburban centres at the level of the urban region, i.e., outside the compact city,
the issues of inter-urban polycentricity are not explicitly forwarded.
The GUDP does not elaborate on the aims of the intra-urban polycentric development, but it
emphasises the need to change the existing “strong monocentric” urban form. The plan aspires to
foster “macrospatial restructuring of the city” by means of “remodelling the existing monocentric
structure of the city towards a more polycentric one, within the scope of several spatial variations:
point, linear or mixed centres, unified by one spatial network” [60] (p. 103). The projected
“macrostructure units” are in effect five axes of development along five radiant transportation
corridors, “along which the city opens outward, coupled by a gradual spilling out (or reallocation) of
functions and services from the central city towards the secondary service centres in the periphery”
[61] (pp. 29–31). This rather complicated vision is presented in Figures 3 and 4.
Legend
Figure 3. Polycentric structure of Sofia’s centres for service provision. Source: Sofproekt [57].
Reproduced with permission from Sofproekt.
Figure 3.
Polycentric structure of Sofia’s centres for service provision. Source: Sofproekt [
57
].
Reproduced with permission from Sofproekt.
Sustainability 2017,9, 15 10 of 19
Figure 4.
The concept of polycentricity as a system of axes and nodes in Sofia’s GUDP. Source: Authors,
based on the GUDP [60].
Therefore, to answer the first question regarding the form of urban growth, we observe that the
GUDP of Sofia has set two goals, which amount to low-density expansion and polycentric development.
The plan acknowledges the importance of urban sustainability, but it does not seem to consider the
form of growth—even suburbanisation or sprawl—as a related issue. The GUDP strives to promote
polycentric development, but does not regard polycentricity as a method to overcome potential
negatives of sprawl that may result in dispersed expansion.
4.3. Planning Provisions and Solutions Concerning Polycentricity and Suburbanisation
This part of the paper deals with the second question: Are the provisions and solutions outlined
by the GUDP consistent with the plan’s goals regarding the form of urban growth? As we have
emphasised, the GUDP aims to stimulate both polycentricity and urban expansion. In the literature
review section, we identified two effective instruments to promote polycentric development: (1) zoning
regulations fostering a system of high-density, mixed-use nodes and (2) proper development of
transportation networks and infrastructure.
4.3.1. Zoning Regulations
GUDP’s zoning regulations in suburban areas are meant to support the goals of low-density
expansion and polycentricity. Priority is given to low-density single-family housing and
“high-category” habitation, as evident in the housing standards (Table 1). Information in the table
is compiled from the GUDP [
61
] and refers to the periurban region as a whole; these data are not
available for specific districts or territories. A total of 98% of suburban residential land is allocated
to five types of low-rise housing. We should note, however, that Bulgarian standards for low-rise
development generally allow for rather high densities. The prevailing type of low-rise housing in the
GUDP allows for a floor-space ratio (FSR) as high as 1.3 (1300 sq. m. floor space in a lot of 1000 sq. m.).
Areas designated for this housing type comprise 45.85% of all suburban residential land. Three types
allow for FSR of 0.6 to 1.0, and only one housing type sets really low parameters of density—FSR of
0.1 to 0.3 (0.5). The latter housing type covers only 2% of all housing areas in the suburban region.
The GUDP takes a different approach to zoning the northern and the southern suburban areas.
In the plan, most of the vast lands in the northern territories of Sofia Metropolitan Municipality remain
agricultural. These areas are kept as the main reserve for urbanisation where the plan zones for
development of various uses: low-rise housing, mixed (compatible) uses, production and warehousing.
Zoning regulations indeed seem to promote both dispersed and polycentric development, which
Sustainability 2017,9, 15 11 of 19
seems acceptable in view of this region’s abundant land resources. The situation is more complex
in the southern suburban region where the GUDP emphasises the need to preserve the green areas
(edges) to maintain the connection between the city and the Vitosha Mountain and Vitosha Natural
Park. However, the picturesque landscapes of these territories are in high demand, and as a result
of pressure from landowners, virtually all available land resources have already been converted to
buildable land.
Table 1.
Suburban housing areas by housing type in the 2003 (2007) GUDP and the 2009 Amendment.
Housing Types
Parameters GUDP 2003
(2007) [ha]
GUDP-Amendment of 2009
FSR Max. Greenery
min.%
Municipalty
Total [ha]
Compact
City [ha]
Suburban
Areas [ha]
Suburban
Share [%]
Areas for predominantly
high-rise housing 3.5 20 524.05 524.05 524.05 0.00 0.00%
Areas for housing estates 3.0 40 2466.94 2449.74 2367.44 82.3 1.16%
Areas for medium-rise
housing 2.3 (1.5) 35 1099.75 939.04 863.25 75.79 1.07%
Areas for predominantly
low-rise housing 1.3 40 5683.78 5447.13 2204.67 3242.46 45.85%
Areas for low-rise housing in
natural environment 0.6 (0.9) 70 981.24 985.48 179.31 806.17 11.40%
Areas for low-rise housing
with specific requirements 1.0 (0.8) 60 1982.57 2196.75 1399.74 797.01 11.27%
Areas for low-rise housing
with limited parameters 0.3 (0.5) 80 417.65 667.25 523.2 144.05 2.04%
Villa areas 0.8 (0.6) 60 1938.59 2060.74 136.91 1923.83 27.20%
15,094.57 15,270.18 8198.57 7071.61 100.00%
Source: Authors, based on GUDP, 2009 Amendment, [
61
], p. 25. Note: The FSR in brackets is allowed under
certain conditions.
4.3.2. Transportation Networks
The development of the transportation networks is crucial for urban growth. However,
as suggested in previous research, well-developed road networks could induce dispersed development,
whereas well-developed public transport networks would more likely stimulate polycentricity.
The GUDP acknowledges the role of transport networks in establishing a polycentric structure (evident
in Figure 5), but it does not consider the different impacts of road and public transport networks.
Sustainability 2017, 9, 15 11 of 19
development, which seems acceptable in view of this region’s abundant land resources. The situation
is more complex in the southern suburban region where the GUDP emphasises the need to preserve
the green areas (edges) to maintain the connection between the city and the Vitosha Mountain and
Vitosha Natural Park. However, the picturesque landscapes of these territories are in high demand,
and as a result of pressure from landowners, virtually all available land resources have already been
converted to buildable land.
Table 1. Suburban housing areas by housing type in the 2003 (2007) GUDP and the 2009 Amendment.
Housing Types
Parameters
GUDP 2003
(2007) [ha]
GUDP-Amendment of 2009
FSR Max. Greenery
min.%
Municipa
lty Total
[ha]
Compact
City [ha]
Suburban
Areas [ha]
Suburban
Share [%]
Areas for predominantly high-
rise housing 3.5 20 524.05 524.05 524.05
0.00 0.00%
Areas for housing estates 3.0 40 2466.94 2449.74 2367.44 82.3 1.16%
Areas for medium-rise housing 2.3 (1.5) 35 1099.75 939.04 863.25 75.79 1.07%
Areas for predominantly low-
rise housing 1.3 40 5683.78 5447.13 2204.67
3242.46 45.85%
Areas for low-rise housing in
natural environment 0.6 (0.9) 70 981.24 985.48 179.31 806.17 11.40%
Areas for low-rise housing with
specific requirements 1.0 (0.8) 60 1982.57 2196.75 1399.74 797.01 11.27%
Areas for low-rise housing with
limited parameters 0.3 (0.5) 80 417.65 667.25 523.2 144.05 2.04%
Villa areas 0.8 (0.6) 60 1938.59 2060.74 136.91 1923.83 27.20%
15,094.57 15,270.18 8198.57
7071.61 100.00%
Source: Authors, based on GUDP, 2009 Amendment, [61], p. 25. Note: The FSR in brackets is allowed
under certain conditions.
4.3.2. Transportation Networks
The development of the transportation networks is crucial for urban growth. However, as
suggested in previous research, well-developed road networks could induce dispersed development,
whereas well-developed public transport networks would more likely stimulate polycentricity. The
GUDP acknowledges the role of transport networks in establishing a polycentric structure (evident
in Figure 5), but it does not consider the different impacts of road and public transport networks.
Legend
Urbanised (existing
and planned) areas.
Service centres
along axes and in
nodes.
Trans-European
corridors.
Primary roads.
Figure 5. Scheme of the primary road network and its role in polycentricity. Source: Sofproekt [62].
Reproduced with permission from Sofproekt.
The plan stresses the “misbalance between the southern and the northern districts” due to the
poor accessibility of the northern suburban areas [60] (pp. 61–62). Nevertheless, the focus is on the
Figure 5.
Scheme of the primary road network and its role in polycentricity. Source: Sofproekt [
62
].
Reproduced with permission from Sofproekt.
Sustainability 2017,9, 15 12 of 19
The plan stresses the “misbalance between the southern and the northern districts” due to the
poor accessibility of the northern suburban areas [
60
] (pp. 61–62). Nevertheless, the focus is on the
development of transportation networks primarily within the compact city, particularly the metro
(subway) railway. The GUDP pledges to improve accessibility to suburban territories by developing the
connections to the national and Trans-European corridors (marked in red in Figure 5) ([
60
], pp. 224–231).
At the same time, the major provisions and all urgent measures are directed to the compact city, because
the transport issues in the central areas are most pressing. In the suburban territories, priority is given
to upgrading the sections of the ring road (the Eastern Tangent, the Southern Arch, the Western Arch,
the Northern Tangent and the Northern Arch from a two-lane to a six-lane road, while local connectors
are neglected. In the northeast the GUDP does plan for a subway (metro) line to Kremikovtsi in
the northeast supported by a high-speed tram route (see Figure 6). Another subway (metro) line is
projected to reach areas in the north in the direction of Novi Iskar. However, these subway lines are
planned for “distant perspective” with no specific time line.
Sustainability 2017, 9, 15 12 of 19
development of transportation networks primarily within the compact city, particularly the metro
(subway) railway. The GUDP pledges to improve accessibility to suburban territories by developing
the connections to the national and Trans-European corridors (marked in red in Figure 5) ([60], pp.
224–231). At the same time, the major provisions and all urgent measures are directed to the compact
city, because the transport issues in the central areas are most pressing. In the suburban territories,
priority is given to upgrading the sections of the ring road (the Eastern Tangent, the Southern Arch,
the Western Arch, the Northern Tangent and the Northern Arch from a two-lane to a six-lane road,
while local connectors are neglected. In the northeast the GUDP does plan for a subway (metro) line
to Kremikovtsi in the northeast supported by a high-speed tram route (see Figure 6). Another subway
(metro) line is projected to reach areas in the north in the direction of Novi Iskar. However, these
subway lines are planned for “distant perspective” with no specific time line.
Legend
Figure 6. GUDP of Sofia Scheme of the public railway transport. Source: Sofproekt [57]. Reproduced
with permission from Sofproekt.
Thus, in answering the second question, we observe that the provisions and solutions of the
master plan are not always consistent with its goals. It is difficult for the GUDP to establish a coherent
structure of zoning standards relevant to both its goals of suburban expansion and polycentricity.
One reason for the observed inconsistencies could be the tendency in planning documents to
overlook the important links between goals and instruments of planning. As for the transportation
networks, their planned development is much stronger in the compact city, which could reinforce
the existing monocentric urban order. The development of public transportation in suburban
territories is planned for later periods.
4.4. Effects of the GUDP on the Form of Urban Growth
This part of the paper addresses the third research question: whether the plan is facilitating the
realisation of the intended form of urban growth. In analysing suburban development, we start by
examining the transportation networks, because their development is a precondition for enabling of
urban growth.
4.4.1. Development of the Transportation Networks
The upgrade of the ring road is no doubt the most significant application of the master plan’s
transportation policy in suburban areas so far. Parts of the Eastern Tangent were upgraded before
the adoption of the GUDP. The Southern Arch was completed in 2012, and its upgrade has
considerably accelerated the development of the southern region. The Western Arch and the
Northern Tangent should be completed by the end of 2016. However, two routes in the northern
Figure 6.
GUDP of Sofia Scheme of the public railway transport. Source: Sofproekt [
57
]. Reproduced
with permission from Sofproekt.
Thus, in answering the second question, we observe that the provisions and solutions of the
master plan are not always consistent with its goals. It is difficult for the GUDP to establish a coherent
structure of zoning standards relevant to both its goals of suburban expansion and polycentricity.
One reason for the observed inconsistencies could be the tendency in planning documents to overlook
the important links between goals and instruments of planning. As for the transportation networks,
their planned development is much stronger in the compact city, which could reinforce the existing
monocentric urban order. The development of public transportation in suburban territories is planned
for later periods.
4.4. Effects of the GUDP on the Form of Urban Growth
This part of the paper addresses the third research question: whether the plan is facilitating the
realisation of the intended form of urban growth. In analysing suburban development, we start by
examining the transportation networks, because their development is a precondition for enabling of
urban growth.
4.4.1. Development of the Transportation Networks
The upgrade of the ring road is no doubt the most significant application of the master plan’s
transportation policy in suburban areas so far. Parts of the Eastern Tangent were upgraded before the
adoption of the GUDP. The Southern Arch was completed in 2012, and its upgrade has considerably
Sustainability 2017,9, 15 13 of 19
accelerated the development of the southern region. The Western Arch and the Northern Tangent
should be completed by the end of 2016. However, two routes in the northern section of the ring—the
Northern Arch and the Northern Tangent—have different timelines of construction. Because the
Northern Tangent is adjacent to the compact city, it has little impact on suburban development.
When developed, the Northern Arch would play the key role in providing access to the nodes of the
planned polycentric structure; however, it is planned for a “distant perspective”.
Aside from the ring road, infrastructural development in Sofia’s periurban region has been
minimal. The total length of the new suburban roads constructed between 2006 and 2011 is less than
12 km [59].
4.4.2. Effects of the GUDP’s Implementation on Urban Development Form
In this final part of the paper, we examine the form of Sofia’s suburban growth since the GUDP
took effect. To assess the changes, we analyse the rates of population growth and we employ three
indicators: density, the perimeter-to-area ratio and the rate of monocentricity.
NSI data [
12
] in Table 2indicate a significant population growth in the southern suburban region.
Growth in this region is on average three times more intensive than growth in the compact city.
In contrast, the rate of growth in the northern districts is the lowest in Sofia’s urban region and has not
increased after the adoption of the plan.
Table 2. Population growth in the different types of districts, 2001–2011.
2001 2006 Population
Growth
% Change
2001–2006 2011 Population
Growth
% Change
2006–2011
Compact city 949,814 997,472 47,658 5.02% 1,034,384 36,912 3.70%
Southern suburban 123,972 141,050 17,078 13.78% 156,606 15,556 11.03%
Northern suburban 97,056 99,366 2310 2.38% 100,601 1235 1.24%
Data from Census 2011 [12].
The southern region in general and the Vitosha collar in particular have been subject to the most
intensive suburbanisation trends since 2003 [
15
,
63
]. These trends were due to the attractiveness of
the Vitosha collar, but also an increased access after the development of the Southern Arch, which
accelerated local development. Planners regard these trends as a serious problem for the city, because
of overdevelopment and the loss of the green edges that are important for the city’s connection with
the Vitosha Mountain and Vitosha Natural Park.
Next, we examine the changes in the densities. Data availability only at the district level prevents
an examination of the location and size of nodes within districts. Still, data on densities can be used to
examine the trends of suburbanisation and sprawl (Figure 7). The trends in the districts of Vrabnitsa
and Ovcha kupel should not be taken into account, because, as stressed in the methodology section,
these districts are “mixed” urban-suburban and their trends of development are in part typical of the
compact city and in part similar to those in suburban areas. The substantial growth in densities in
the southern suburban districts is notable and suggests that suburbanisation in the southern region
is not taking the form of sprawl. This is evident in all southern areas, but especially in the Vitosha
district, where densities have increased above the densities intended by the GUDP. The changes in the
northern districts are minimal and do not allow for specific conclusions.
To explore the changes in the rates of dispersion (fragmentation) of the urbanised patches,
we employ the perimeter-to-area indicator. Data in Table 3show a drop in this indicator in the
southern areas, which signifies that suburban patterns have become less dispersed. This confirms our
observations based on the growing densities. The drop is most significant in the Vitosha district—from
42.20 to 28.92 m/ha, which indicates a substantial increase in compactness. Thus it is a second
indicator supporting the conclusion that suburbanisation patterns in Vitosha are not typical for sprawl.
This feature is evident in Figure 8. The urbanised areas in Vitosha district in 2006 are shown in grey
Sustainability 2017,9, 15 14 of 19
colour. A total of 56% of the open spaces and woodlands that had been left to serve as green edges
maintaining the connection of the city’s green areas with the Vitosha Mountain are now converted to
urban land (marked as newly urbanised, 2006–2013, for housing or mixed use). In effect, suburban
growth to the south is increasingly compact rather than dispersed.
Sustainability 2017, 9, 15 14 of 19
Figure 7. Trends in densities in Sofia’s suburban districts in selected years. Source: NSI (2012) [12] and
the CLC database of EEA [64], processed by IAUS.
Figure 8. Newly urbanised areas in the district of Vitosha 2006–2013. Source: Authors based on a map
from Sofproekt [62]. Reproduced with permission from Sofproekt.
Figure 7.
Trends in densities in Sofia’s suburban districts in selected years. Source: NSI (2012) [
12
] and
the CLC database of EEA [64], processed by IAUS.
Sustainability 2017, 9, 15 14 of 19
Figure 7. Trends in densities in Sofia’s suburban districts in selected years. Source: NSI (2012) [12] and
the CLC database of EEA [64], processed by IAUS.
Figure 8. Newly urbanised areas in the district of Vitosha 2006–2013. Source: Authors based on a map
from Sofproekt [62]. Reproduced with permission from Sofproekt.
Figure 8.
Newly urbanised areas in the district of Vitosha 2006–2013. Source: Authors based on a map
from Sofproekt [62]. Reproduced with permission from Sofproekt.
Sustainability 2017,9, 15 15 of 19
Table 3.
Perimeter-area indicator—length of outer borders per hectare of the urbanised area in three
suburban districts of Sofia, 2006–2013.
Factors
Vitosha Southern
Suburban
Novi Iskar Northern
Suburban
Kremikovtsi
Northern Suburban
2006 2013 2006 2013 2006 2013
Total urbanised area UA-[ha] 2514.43 3131.27 2751.44 2806.42 3405.68 3707.55
Length of outer borders (bordering
non-urban land) OB-[m] 106,104 90,569 213,688 229,330 146,033 168,248
Perimeter-area ratio—outer
borders/urbanised area OB/UA-[m/ha]
42.20 28.92 77.66 81.72 42.88 45.38
Table based on data from Sofproekt [62]. Reproduced with permission from Sofproekt.
To the north, however, we see the opposite trend occurring. As we have already observed,
population growth in the northern districts is the lowest in Sofia Metropolitan Municipality —its rate is
only about one-third of the rate of growth in the compact city. The levels of the perimeter-to-area ratio
in the northern districts are higher than those in Vitosha and are growing further, indicating an increase
in fragmentation. Accordingly, the development in the northern areas is weak and dispersed. This can
be attributed to the lack of market demand in these territories, inconsistent zoning regulations (some
inducing dispersion and others polycentricity), and the delayed development of mass transit systems.
Finally, to assess the trend of overall development, we examine the rates of monocentricity at
the city level in the years 2006–2011 against those in earlier periods (Figure 9). The results confirm
that, despite the trends of suburbanisation and a half percent decrease in the rate of monocentricity,
Sofia Metropolitan Municipality continues to be a highly monocentric urban region.
Sustainability 2017, 9, 15 15 of 19
Table 3. Perimeter-area indicator—length of outer borders per hectare of the urbanised area in three
suburban districts of Sofia, 2006–2013.
Factors
Vitosha Southern
Suburban
Novi Iskar
Northern Suburban
Kremikovtsi
Northern Suburban
2006 2013 2006 2013 2006 2013
Total urbanised area UA-[ha] 2514.43 3131.27 2751.44 2806.42 3405.68 3707.55
Length of outer borders (bordering
non-urban land) OB-[m] 106,104 90,569 213,688 229,330 146,033 168,248
Perimeter-area ratio—outer
borders/urbanised area OB/UA-[m/ha] 42.20 28.92 77.66 81.72 42.88 45.38
Table based on data from Sofproekt [62]. Reproduced with permission from Sofproekt.
To the north, however, we see the opposite trend occurring. As we have already observed,
population growth in the northern districts is the lowest in Sofia Metropolitan Municipality —its rate
is only about one-third of the rate of growth in the compact city. The levels of the perimeter-to-area
ratio in the northern districts are higher than those in Vitosha and are growing further, indicating an
increase in fragmentation. Accordingly, the development in the northern areas is weak and dispersed.
This can be attributed to the lack of market demand in these territories, inconsistent zoning
regulations (some inducing dispersion and others polycentricity), and the delayed development of
mass transit systems.
Finally, to assess the trend of overall development, we examine the rates of monocentricity at
the city level in the years 2006–2011 against those in earlier periods (Figure 9). The results confirm
that, despite the trends of suburbanisation and a half percent decrease in the rate of monocentricity,
Sofia Metropolitan Municipality continues to be a highly monocentric urban region.
Figure 9. Number of residents in the compact city and in suburban areas, 2001–2011. Diagram
prepared by the authors, based on data from NSI, 2012 [12], pp. 18–34.
With regard to the third research question, we conclude that so far there is no indication that the
GUDP is changing the form of Sofia’s growth. In the southern districts, against the plan’s intentions
to promote low-density “high-category” housing (i.e., sprawl) and save the green and open spaces,
the development is increasingly compact. In the northern districts, the GUDP aimed toward
polycentric development, but could not stimulate it. The growing fragmentation (dispersion) of
urban form to the north suggests that no compact polycentric nodes are developing. As a whole, Sofia
Metropolitan Municipality continues to be highly monocentric, with the GUDP exhibiting difficulties
in realising the intended forms of urban growth (Table 4).
Figure 9.
Number of residents in the compact city and in suburban areas, 2001–2011. Diagram prepared
by the authors, based on data from NSI, 2012 [
12
], pp. 18–34. Note: To compare the trends before and
after the enforcement of the GUDP, this diagram covers both periods, i.e., including the period, already
shown in Figure 2.
With regard to the third research question, we conclude that so far there is no indication that the
GUDP is changing the form of Sofia’s growth. In the southern districts, against the plan’s intentions to
promote low-density “high-category” housing (i.e., sprawl) and save the green and open spaces, the
development is increasingly compact. In the northern districts, the GUDP aimed toward polycentric
development, but could not stimulate it. The growing fragmentation (dispersion) of urban form to
the north suggests that no compact polycentric nodes are developing. As a whole, Sofia Metropolitan
Municipality continues to be highly monocentric, with the GUDP exhibiting difficulties in realising the
intended forms of urban growth (Table 4).
Sustainability 2017,9, 15 16 of 19
Table 4. Assessing the relationship between the GUDP’s performance and urban sustainability.
Southern Suburban Areas Northern Suburban Areas
Goals
(1) Low-density expansion
(2) Preservation of the green edges
(1) Low-density expansion
(2) Polycentric urban growth
Actual development
(1) Substantial expansion with relatively high-density and
compact urban forms
(2) Disappearing green edges (56% loss of open spaces
2006–2013); realisation of the second goal is jeopardised.
(1) Low growth, exhibiting neither expansion (low or high
density) nor polycentricity
(2) Favourable conditions for polycentric development still
exist - ample space and sparse network of villages
Key findings
(1) Development could be considered sustainable, i.e., dense
and compact. However, this type of development form was
not envisioned as the plan’s goal for this area and has not
resulted from the plan’s implementation.
(2) The plan’s inability to prevent the loss of the green edges is
likely to bear negative consequences on the sustainability of
the city of Sofia and its urban region.
(1) The plan has little effect on the area’s sustainability.
(2) Because favourable conditions for polycentric development
still exist, it can be realised, if the plan introduces proper tools
of implementation, especially regarding the development
of infrastructure.
5. Conclusions
This research is set to investigate the capacity of master planning to promote and ensure realisation
of desired urban forms, and, more generally, contribute to sustainability. As a case study, we examine
the current master plan of Sofia and its implementation. We acknowledge that the period of nine
years may be too short to fully realise a plan’s goals and to observe its effects. While only minor
changes in urban structure and form could be achieved over such a short term, one decade is an
adequate milestone for an interim evaluation of progress and reassessment of master planning’s goals
and provisions. Thus, in evaluating the implementation of Sofia’s General Urban Development Plan
(GUDP), we observe that the plan has aimed to reduce the historically established very high level of
monocentricity and promote two different forms of growth: low-density expansion and polycentricity,
but without explicitly stating how the promoted forms relate to and influence the city’s sustainability.
Furthermore, we find that the plan does not include a coherent system of planning solutions, measures,
and tools such as relevant zoning standards and transportation infrastructure improvements, which
would facilitate the realisation of the forms of urban growth it advocates for its goals. Over the past
decade, Sofia’s GUDP has been only partly effective in fulfilling its own goals and has had a limited
impact on improving the area’s sustainability.
The relationship between a plan’s performance and its impact on sustainable urban development
is our key point of research. Regarding the sustainable urban growth and form, the trends in
Sofia are mixed. The loss of the green areas in the southern territories is a negative outcome
of extensive development pressures, which could not be contained by the plan. In contrast, the
high-density compact expansion pattern in the same areas could be considered a step towards
sustainable development, with lower environmental impacts of the urban system and more efficient
consumption of land, natural resources and amenities. However, this positive feature could not be
attributed to the GUDP, because it was not its goal. The plan also could not easily redirect growth
towards the northern territories and stimulate the polycentric structure, particularly within such a
short window of time. In those terms, Sofia’s GUDP contribution to promoting sustainable urban forms
has been limited. Nevertheless, it offers a valuable example of the importance of the link between the
planning objectives and its performance via various implementation mechanisms.
These findings provide the basis for more general conclusions about how a master plan could
realise its goals and promote sustainability. In line with Sofia’s GUDP statement that sustainability has
become “imperative”, it is essential that planners account for the impacts of proposed urban forms
on sustainability. Identifying a sustainable form of growth, especially when considering specific local
context and conditions, is a difficult task. Our research highlights the fact that implementation of plans
and the realisation of urban forms are even more challenging. Establishment of mutually coherent
goals, sub-goals and solutions, along with relevant tools of implementation is crucial for any plan
Sustainability 2017,9, 15 17 of 19
to be effective. Clearly, the capacity of master planning to achieve its goals is essential to promoting
sustainability. There is much to learn from the past efforts. When a plan is viewed as a dynamic tool
and a cycle of governance rather than a static statement of goals, then the new period is an opportunity
to avoid the observed omissions or mistakes. An interim evaluation and update of goals, solutions
and tools of a plan are essential for the realisation of sustainable urban form and overall development.
Acknowledgments:
The authors acknowledge the financial support of the European Union FP7-ENV.2011.2.1.5-1
(TURAS Project) Grant Agreement No. 282834. The authors acknowledge the use of data analysed by Sofia’s
municipal planning company Sofproekt OGP and the Institute of Architecture and Urbanism of Serbia (IAUS).
Author Contributions:
Aleksandar D. Slaev conceived and designed the study, analysed the data and wrote the
paper with Zorica Nedovic-Budic’s guidance, support, editorial help, and feedback.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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Summary in English of a "Doctor of Sciences" thesis: In the literature, the most popular classification of property rights distinguishes between two "pure" types of ownership – private and common/public – and one intermediate type – collective entitlements. But this classification cannot explain the relationship of private and public entities to the market and planning. It is widely accepted that private property is managed by the market mechanism, while public property – by central planning. Then, why does the market consist of entities that plan their activities (e.g., all types of companies), and collective organisations such as cooperatives and corporations are active market players? Another related issue, the focus of this research, is the management of natural resources. Most environmentalists are convinced that private property, with its intrinsic pursuit of profit, is to blame for the depletion of natural resources. Conversely, most economists believe that it is common property to blame because it leads to wasteful use of resources. However, both private and common ownership are associated with major failures of nature-protection policies. Furthermore, most environmentalists, due to their critical perception of the role of markets, reject the use of monetary tools for the protection of nature and natural resources, although few challenge the effectiveness of these tools. Therefore, one likely reason for the poor efficacy of nature-protection policies may be the insufficient use of monetary instruments.
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Master plans are prepared in many countries to manage and guide spatial growth of cities. Nevertheless, these are much criticised for being rigid in terms of growth strategies and implementation. In case of a metropolitan city, relationship between growth strategies of master plan and spatial dynamics is complex and hence it hampers implementation. This research aims to critically analyse the practices of spatial growth management in the capital city of Punjab, Pakistan. A hybrid approach of quantitative and qualitative methods is utilised in this research, wherein, GIS technique with Landsat imagery is used to determine the spatio-temporal dynamics of the city. Interviews with experts, who were either involved in preparation or implementation of spatial growth strategies of various development plans (DPs), are also conducted. This research presents historic evolution of spatial growth strategies of Lahore from 1966 to 2016, determines their extent of implementation and consequences in the light of views of the experts. Findings reveal that out of all the DPs prepared for Lahore, some of the growth strategies were based on ground realities but could not be fully implemented due to the administrative, fiscal and enforcement issues which led to inadvertent land use conversion and urban sprawl. All the DPs were also deficient in forming an effective evaluation mechanism. The basis of growth strategies and the implementation mechanism need to be revisited for making better growth strategies.
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EXTENDED ABSTRACT This paper proposes and explanation of the allocation of social activities between private and collective planning and the market based on the structure of property rights. Private planning is teleocratic and collective planning is nomocratic. The paper argues that in social relations simple systems are those, in which all property rights belong to one individual/entity and complex are those, in which the property rights belong to many individuals/entities. Teleocratic planning is relevant to ‘simple’ systems – i.e., systems with one owner, monocentric with a strong hierarchy. They serve the interests of this owner, so the goals of planning and the means of their achievement are strictly defined and detailed. According to Moroni (2010: 138) teleocratic planning is “rational, deliberate intervention necessarily via a plan, itself in turn a direc¬tional set of authoritative rules” aimed at deliberate (centralized) coordination of all activities. Nomocratic planning is relevant to complex social systems made up of independent individuals/ owners/co-owners. Thus nomocratic planning is aimed at “general types of situations or actions”. Moroni (2010: 146) defines nomocracy as the approach utilising “indirect ways of reaching an order, methods based on (non-directional) rules that are simple, abstract and general, purpose-independent,” referring “to general types of situations or actions, not to specific ones”. In practice, however, nomocracy comprises teleocracy (e.g., the government planning strictly its ‘own’ activities – the infrastructure) and regulation (framework-setting – e.g. the government regulating private agents). THE ROLE OF REGULATION Regulation is a key component of nomocratic planning. Planning is often defined as the means or the route to get from point “A” to point “B”. Points are usually defined by their coordinates. If “B” is the target, planning (particularly teleocratic planning) would require the coordinates of “B” to be defined as strictly as possible – otherwise, one could not get to “B”. In contrast, regulation does not aim to achieve a strictly defined “B”. Regulation too has a target, but it is not a point: for regulation, target “B” is an area. Regulation defines the framework of the area, i.e., rules form a framework – in this way individuals are able to pursue their own goals within the framework. PLANNING AND MARKET UNDER INDIVIDUAL/PRIVATE OWNERSHIP Traditionally, planning is associated mainly with common/collective/public property rights. This is an error made because the distinction between private and collective planning has not been made. In fact, one can plan an activity only insofar as she owns property rights (full or partial) over the resources employed in this activity. There is no point in planning someone else’s property. (Municipal planners plan or, rather, regulate private properties only insofar as they exercise property rights transferred by private owners to the municipality – see more on that below) Thus if an individual holds private property rights over all resources needed for an activity, she will execute this activity through private planning. But if she owns privately only a part of the resources, she will have to cooperate with the owners of other resources needed. This will be done through exchange – i.e., through the market mechanism. PLANNING AND MARKET UNDER COMMON OWNERSHIP To manage a common resource, the co-owners will have to employ rules that should define who may use the property and under what conditions, who can make decisions and what procedures they must follow, etc. I.e., the co-owners will have to allocate the rights to use and manage the common resource/s. This applies to societies, communities, stock or collective companies, clubs and even families. Therefore, common property rights are managed through nomocratic planning that, as explained above, comprises regulation and teleocratic planning. EXAMPLE: To use their properties in a settlement, private owners also share common resources like microclimate, sunlight, air quality, infrastructure, etc. They can manage common properties only collectively, so they have to transfer some of their property rights (specifically, some management rights) to a form of union, e.g., the local government/municipality. But for some attributes citizens transfer to the municipality full property rights (e.g. land for infrastructure), whereas for other attributes they transfer only partial property rights (e.g., if I want to avoid the threat of my neighbour building too high, thus depriving me of sunlight, I should comply with regulations that limit my rights to build high, so I transfer to the municipality some part of my management rights over my property). Therefore, the municipality exercises full property rights over municipal land and infrastructure and partial property (management) rights over private lands by limiting the height of building.
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Current social and economic theory has yet to explain why, despite the many advantages of the market mechanism, planning is employed at all levels of market economy. Like other studies, this research proposes an explanation based on the form of property rights; however, it uses specific definitions of market, private planning and collective planning that establish unambiguous links between them and the structure of ownership. Thus, the article supports the position that the employment of planning or market mechanisms in economic and social activities depends solely on the structure of property rights. The contribution of this article is the formulation of two criteria for the allocation of property rights derived from Coase?s seminal works, termed in this text as Coase?s criterion of institutional optimisation and Coase?s market cost criterion. An important aspect of this proposal is the suggestion that Coase?s theory can be a powerful tool with which to study shared/common entitlements. It illuminates the nature and the mechanisms of private and collective planning and their relationship to the market. The article concludes that private planning may exist only if it is good enough to improve the efficiency of the market. Collective planning is indispensable when markets employ shared/collectively owned resources.
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Socialist-era city edges were subject to stringent planning control; they were typically marked by large, socially homogenous socialist panel-housing estates and well-defined urban boundaries, beyond which lay a rural periphery of modest villages. Following the fall of socialism, rings of suburbs began to emerge in and around large cities of the former Soviet Bloc. Studies have shown that in many cases, post-socialist suburbanization has been fueled by the relocation of upper-class households in pursuit of higher residential standards, lower densities, and lusher natural environments (Stanilov, 2007; Krisjane and Berzins, 2012). Thus researchers have perceived the trends in post-socialist cities as following the patterns of intra-urban suburbanization common in Western metropolises, albeit with a significant delay (Nedovic-Budic and Tsenkova, 2006; Hirt, 2007a; Stanilov, 2007). However, suburbanization in many parts of the world has been fueled by at least one other type of migration—rural-to-urban (Dias, 1990; Krisjane and Berzins, 2012). This type of suburban development typically houses lower-income groups, whose relocation to the urban periphery is fueled not by ambition to improve their lifestyles but rather by a search for opportunities in proximity to the city. Both phenomena can contribute to socio-spatial segregation in the urban periphery. In Sofia, research has focused almost exclusively on upper-class suburban development in Sofia’s attractive southern periphery. In this work, we expand the area of study to include the entire urban periphery. The aim of this research is to examine the differences between new residents in different parts of the periphery and find out whether suburbanization leads to socio-spatial segregation—a well-known phenomenon in Western cities. This study of contemporary suburbanization in Sofia begins with a review of literature on suburbanization in relevant contexts. We then use the results of a survey conducted in early 2014 on specific characteristics of Sofia's new southern and northern suburban residents. The survey structure is based upon that of an earlier study, which provides a basis for comparison with present findings. Census data is presented to show the extent of socio-spatial segregation (or mix) at district and neighborhood levels. The findings of our research indicate that migrants to Sofia's northern urban periphery differ from those in the southern periphery (the Vitosha footlands). We conclude that the resulting social structure in Sofia’s suburbs is generally less segregated than in the West, at least so far. Especially at the district level, trends indicate a higher social mix. Yet certain forms of socio-spatial segregation, such as gated housing, are emerging.
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This paper examines the methods of planning of complex systems. More precisely, it applies property rights analysis to the methodology of nomocracy, a leading branch of the theory of complexity in planning. To study the methodology of planning, the paper focuses on its objectives and methods, as well as the characteristics of nomocratic rules. It briefly examines the literature on the methods of planning of complex systems, the methods of the nomocratic approach, and the methods of regulation theory. It then develops a theoretical structure of the methodology of nomocratic planning by employing property rights analysis and finds that the purpose of nomocracy is the allocation of entitlements. Finally, to emphasise the importance of property rights, it discusses some specific findings of Holcombe’s work “Planning and the Invisible Hand” (2013). Holcombe’s work is a well-developed study of the relevance of the nomocratic approach to market functions; planning practices, such as zoning; and topical issues of contemporary urban development, such as sprawl and related new urbanism/smart growth principles. This paper focuses on Holcombe’s particularly critical view of the latter. However, while the application of property rights analysis fully supports Holcombe’s understanding of the positive connection between nomocratic planning and the market, it also leads to a more favourable view of zoning and new urbanist principles. The paper concludes that the main objective and defining characteristic of nomocratic rules is that they serve to allocate property rights over commonly owned resources.