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The SITxell project - Integrating natural values and ecosystem benefits into land planning

From EPSA - European Public Sector Award

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Award nominee

The most important challenge for conservation in Europe is to make nature compatible with human land uses. Natural core areas are now largely preserved under Natura 2000, a representative system of protected areas that conserve the most valuable species and habitats. Nevertheless, the loss of biodiversity is still going on, mainly because natural areas outside Natura 2000 sites have no formal protection and the maintenance of ecosystem functionality across the entire landscape is not warranted. The European Commission is discussing the so called ‘Green Infrastructure’ concept as a key approach to formulate the post-2010 policy response to biodiversity loss. The objective is to help reconnect existing nature areas and improve overall ecological quality through a more balanced use of land. One of the most effective ways of building a green infrastructure is to adopt a more integrated approach to land management, through strategic level land planning. This allows a multidisciplinary and large geographical scale tactic that facilitates planning proposals, and also promotes consensus among sectors, based on precise land information and analysis.

The ‘SITxell’ project was born in 2001, under these principles, in the Natural Areas Department of the Barcelona Provincial Government. This Government has been a pioneer institution in protecting natural areas since 1972. In recent years the main concern was to spread conservation initiatives and integrated planning from protected areas to the whole territory. The aim of the ‘SITxell’ project is to set up a territorial information system covering the open areas of the province of Barcelona. On the technical side, ‘SITxell’ is a project of land analysis and planning based on multidisciplinary territorial data about open areas, and including hundreds of types of geology, hydrology, flora, habitats, fauna, landscape ecology, cultural heritage, farming, forestry, etc., generated by scientific teams. The specific feature of ‘SITxell’ is that it incorporates accurate and reliable expert assessment and valuation of land structure and dynamics, including elements of interest, risks, and potentialities. This consistent, independent and integrated land evaluation makes the political component of ‘SITxell’ possible. This is, to influence spatial land planning at the municipal and regional level, by offering the information and criteria to competent public administrations, and also by promoting consensus with the private sector and stakeholders.

Nowadays, ‘SITxell’ is a consolidated project, offering free of charge land analysis information and planning criteria that are used by the main public administrations with responsibilities including spatial land planning by private enterprises, specialists and NGOs. The Barcelona Provincial Government applies its data and criteria in all land policies, from protected area planning to urban and infrastructure strategies. The Catalonia Regional Government also uses ‘SITxell’ information and approach at a higher scale, i.e. in strategic regional land planning. The extensive application of ‘SITxell’ is helping to construct a new paradigm of open area values and benefits, and to apply it to spatial land planning. This role of ‘SITxell’ has been recognised by the EU, which has selected it as an example of good practice for developing the Green Infrastructure initiative.

Award info
Award category: going green
Award type: nominee
Award year: 2011
Project type
Sector: Environment, climate change, agriculture (incl. food safety) and fishery
Type of activity:
Keywords: Strategic land planning, GIS, green infrastructure, public partnership
Short English description: The aim of the ‘SITxell’ project is to set up a territorial information system covering the open areas of the province of Barcelona.
Further information
Organisation: Barcelona Provincial Government
Other applicants:
Homepage: http://www.diba.cat/parcsn/sitxell/eng
Level of government: local level
Size of organisation: >100
Number of people involved: >15
Country: Spain
EU membership: EU member
Language code: en
Start date:
End date:


The SITxell project - Integrating natural values and ecosystem benefits into land planning (41.3884861, 2.1501513)
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