La Taula per a la Millora Urbana – TxMU

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Barcelona (ciudad)

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Main actors

City Government, other, Regional Government

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Project area

Neighborhood or district

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Ongoing since 2004/06

The project improves living conditions for inhabitants affected in those urban areas requiring special attention.

Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain, faces many diverse challenges and problems. One challenge is addressing marginal districts/ areas. Disadvantaged inhabitants are forced to move to peripheral or poor districts. As a result, these areas are focal points for urban, social, economic, and environmental problems.

‘Taula per a la Millora Urbana’ (TxMU) aims to improve living conditions for inhabitants affected in urban areas requiring special attention. Therefore, the City of Barcelona decided to comprehensively intervene in these areas. The integrated intervention approach was carried out by several closely linked administrative entities. TxMU was created as a forum for different administrative entities, and was initially based on volunteer work. The project’s main results are draft plans for 55 projects in the affected areas, 33 are currently in operation, and improved communication and cooperation between the 37 involved offices and services. TxMU is perceived as one of the most prestigious recent public initiatives.

The project addresses universal problems and used an integrated governance approach to solve these problems. The phenomenon of marginal districts occurs in cities around the world, but an effective inter-administrative approach is not self-evident. The Barcelona project shows how effective this approach can be.

Sustainable Development Goals

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Barcelona (ciudad), Spain

Size and population development
2011: 5,570,000; 1990: 4,101,000; 2025: 6,511,000; 2010-2015: +1.42% / year

Population composition
13,9 % non-natives, the majority come from (in order) Ecuador, Peru, Morocco, Colombia, Argentina, Pakistan and China

Main functions
regional Capital City, harbour city, industrial city

Main industries / business
tourism, transport, energy, chemicals and metallurgy

Sources for city budget
15 % of Spain’s GDP is created in Barcelona; 14 % of all Spanish companies are registered in Barcelona.

Political structure
The city is governed by a City Council which is elected on a four-year term.

Administrative structure
Barcelona consists of 10 districts.

The main challenges and problems the project addresses are poor conditions in public facilities and spaces in marginal areas, weak socio-economical state, poor conditions of dwellings, and low level of public participation in urban development processes. The overall challenge is improving the living situations for the affected inhabitants. The overall objective strives to face challenges including building and preserving public spaces and facilities, economic revitalisation programmes, housing renovation, and participation processes. Associated objectives are:

  1. fostering cooperation among various Barcelona Provincial Council departments, services, and offices through pooling work and knowledge;
  2. enhancing assistance to municipal councils in carrying out comprehensive intervention projects in neighbourhoods which are in focus of significant urban, social, economic, and environmental problems;
  3. enriching the content of comprehensive intervention projects through coordinating, cooperating, and pooling various associated sectoral policies;
  4. promoting cross-disciplinary work and intra-administrative cooperation in municipal councils, following an example given by Barcelona Provincial Council itself.

The project target groups are therefore not only residents in marginal neighbourhoods who benefit from the actual project activities, but also those administrative bodies required to improve their working methods. All project activities are carried out in neighbourhoods in municipalities with less than 10,000 inhabitants. They have a total beneficiary population of 217,254 people in the affected areas.

In June 2004, the Law 2/2004 was passed in order to improve the situation in the districts, urban areas, and municipalities which require special attention. The law is designed to initiate comprehensive measures in urban areas, focusing on urban, social, economic, and environmental problems. It was approved unanimously by all parliamentary political groups. In January 2005, TxMU started its work. To date this project has received support both from political representatives and the public, and is one of the most highly rated and prestigious public initiatives in recent years.

The project was created by Barcelona Housing Services, Town Planning and Activities Management Bureau (GSHUA) to establish a forum (with no explicit organic or budgetary status) for communication and cooperation among 37 services and offices involved in urban improvement.

The main stakeholders in the project are:

  • The local municipal council, the project manager and leader, co-finances both drafting for projects (25% of the total) in cases in which these are drawn up with provincial council support (which assumes the remaining 75%), and also implementation in projects financed by the fund for the promotion of the programme for districts and urban areas requiring special attention (Regional Government of Catalonia).
  • The Government of Catalonia regulates project requirements, co-finances implementation in projects it deems appropriate (50% or 75% for municipalities with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants and projects approved since 2009), controls and monitors projects it finances, advises and resolves any queries that municipal town councils and Barcelona Provincial Council may have.
  • Barcelona Provincial Council promotes, develops, co-finances (75% of the total budget) drafting for comprehensive intervention projects through TxMU, and provides complementary technical and economic support in implementing the variety of projects.
  • The public, both individually and through residents’ associations and organisations, is involved in participatory processes in defining the project, implementing many of the measures, monitoring and assessing the plan. Some measures have also been co-financed by residents involved.
  • The specialist private sector also drafts projects, and has been involved in implementing measures.

TxMU is a result of joint work and interaction among municipal councils (and council technical and political officials) and Barcelona Provincial Council 37 services and offices, each of which, in proportion and intensity as appropriate to scope, coordinates and complements resources and knowledge in defining and implementing projects.

These 37 services and offices are part of:

  1. General Coordination and Directorate of Studies and Planning (Provincial President’s Office),
  2. Economic Development, Trade, Tourism and Sports offices (Economic Development and Employment),
  3. Education and Culture (Science and New Technologies),
  4. Infrastructure, Planning and Activities and Environment (Planning and Sustainability) and
  5. Social Welfare and Equality and Citizenship (Social Authority).

With regard to TxMU management, the organisational structure has gradually been strengthened by creating a series of coordination and management bodies - such as Plenary Meeting, Council, and Secretariat. Tools and internal resources, e.g. intranet shared information system, computer application for tracking attendance and work performed, technical exchange forums etc. - as dynamism in the network has grown and become more complex.

Responsibility for promoting and assisting municipalities in defining comprehensive intervention projects in neighbourhoods was allocated to GSHUA, Housing Services, Town Planning and Activities Management Bureau. In this regard, between 2004 and 2011, the agency spent 1,384,146 EUR on writing projects. To that sum, work and contributions by other TxMU members must be added.

The Catalan Government is funding 41 projects with a total budget amounting to 312,300,000 million EUR (169,600,000 EUR provided by the Generalitat de Catalunya and 142,500,000 EUR by the municipalities involved).

TxMU financial contribution to project implementation (5,525,761 EUR) has been channelled by the use of resources, products and services existing, and programmed by various offices and services. In many cases funding contribution has resulted in additional actions or support in executing programmed actions (e.g. preparing studies, equipment).

TxMU participation has brought qualitative improvement to projects and enhanced comprehensive scope and cross-disciplinary natures of approaches and working methods. Greater success and effectiveness have been noted in the initiatives based on the collaborative and integrated approach proposed by the project. This is evident in the fact that, of Provincial Council projects, increasing numbers were financed by the Government of Catalonia (increasing from 1 in 2004 and 2005 to 9 in 2007, 8 in 2009 and 9 in 2010) and that the Provincial Council experienced an increasing demand for assistance from municipal councils (from 6 instances in 2004 to 15 in 2008, 19 in 2009 and 15 in 2010).

Similarly, TxMU has helped municipal councils which are collaborating with the Provincial Council to adopt internally forms or models of cross-disciplinary project definition and management (with greater or lesser intensity, depending on the case). Reasons behind this move is the realisation that integrated projects caused fewer problems, were more efficiently implemented, and more likely to be funded by the Government of Catalonia.

Lastly, TxMU was chosen in 2009 as a finalist in the first Territory Award, organised by the Catalan Society for Town and Country Planning (SCOT). It was also selected as best practice within the Urban Revitalisation programme organised by the Spanish Association of Public Housing and Land Developers.

There are limits and barriers to TxMU. Although the project, with its integrated approach, is more successful than sector-specific approaches, comprehensive intervention is not enough to solve the problems of disadvantaged neighbourhoods completely, or to end spatial segregation processes. Also, TxMU offers support and advice but does not direct nor provide finance. Its work is therefore subject to the will and financial and management capacity in other authorities involved. Because of the prestige of the project, the danger that it will cease due to financial reasons is as yet not so high.

The general lack of money in Spanish authorities threatens project implementation. Problems facing TxMU are worsening and also planned time frames for some projects cannot be maintained. The economic and financial crisis affecting the whole of Spanish society is also likely to contribute to or to exacerbate socio-spatial segregation situations or processes. The crisis also diminishes money available to realise further projects.

Continuity in comprehensive intervention projects have not yet been implemented completely, and those scheduled to be progressed during a four-year period (plus 2 years’ extension) are guaranteed despite the current economic situation. Continuity for TxMU is therefore assured over the period in which 33 projects still in progress are in an implementation phase.

Barcelona public authorities gained knowledge concerning an integrated approach. Furthermore, TxMU provides a pattern towards future methods in facing administrative problems. Synergies can reduce costs, the participatory approach of involving the private sector and the public in the project enhances effectiveness.

The main success factor in this project is willingness on the part of all 37 offices and services in the project to become connected and to communicate intensively. Although this does not seem very difficult, implementing cooperation of this kind is often difficult. The second success factor is the funds from authorities, Catalan Government, and municipalities involved. Without money from these authorities, TxMU could not work, due to the fact that the project itself does not manage financial resources.

Although 33 projects, still in execution processes, will be finished by 2016, further development in the project is difficult to predict because of the potential barriers mentioned above (see Barriers and conflicts).

Project transferability depends to a great extent on administrative entities’ willingness to communicate with each other. If this willingness is given, the integrated approach can be transferred easily, not only in cases of working to combat social segregation, but also on other issues such as planning and implementing major building projects etc.

TxMU has encouraged and helped most municipal councils to adopt cross-disciplinary forms or models with which to undertake projects, and has helped the public and residents to appreciate municipal council collective intervention as a whole in facing problems in a specific area.

There are no hints that the project is the result of transfer, but there are integrated approaches in other cities, e.g. in Berlin, which are similar (Berlin:

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Camille Toggenburger
Berlin, Germany

Camille Toggenburger

Individual | Community and Content Manager | urban sustainability exchange

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