With 322 751 inhabitants in 2014 (589 407 in the larger urban area), the city of Bari faces challenges over the availability of green spaces in its inner city area. In fact, urban green spaces constitute less than 2.1 % of the municipality’s surface area, and mainly consist of small parks and neighbourhood gardens (63.7 %). The city has pockets of socioeconomic deprivation and investment challenges in improving its housing and urban infrastructure. Neighbourhood gardens are partly the result of urban planning rules, which oblige investors to cede a part of the land for the creation of public infrastructure free of charge. However, the local authorities struggle to manage the resulting areas, which are often badly designed and not maintained.
Further to these existing obstacles to the creation of urban quality, there is increasing concern that climate change may disrupt the seasonal pattern of hot-dry summers and wet winters, impacting the farming chain and quality of life, and increasing the impact of heat waves and wildfires (DeBellis, Spanò, Lafortezza, & Sanesi, 2015).
The overall objectives of the Bari city authorities are to improve urban quality, reduce the urban heat island effect and manage storm water.
Improving green areas and their functions is a crucial part of achieving this goal and is addressed by several plans within Bari’s multi-level planning system. This multi-level planning consists of:
- the city itself, which is responsible for statutory land-use planning;
- the metropolitan area of Bari, which has powers only for strategic planning;
- the Apulia Region, which is responsible for overarching plans in areas such as landscape, regional infrastructure and water resources.
At regional level, the regional landscape plan lists a series of goals related to urban and peri-urban green spaces, including community spaces in new housing developments, multifunctional agricultural areas at the city margins and green spaces in consolidated urbanised areas. The main focus of this plan for the central area of the Apulia region where Bari is situated is to develop the system of lame, which are karstic, geomorphological depressions or intermittent rivers. These provide a natural network for drainage which has been interrupted by urbanisation processes. The idea is that these could be rehabilitated so as to decrease geomorphologic and flooding risks and to create connectivity (“Paesaggio Puglia - Scenario strategico,” 2016).
The regional landscape plan builds on the 2002 regional urban landscape plan (PUTT/P) and the regional territorial landscape plan (PPTR). These plans aim to preserve and restore the landscape, recognising the role of biodiversity and landscape in the region’s economic and social development.
At local level, the strategic plan for the metropolitan area of Bari (“Bari 2015 Metropoli Terra di Bari,” 2015) also lists the repair of the lame within the city as potential ecological restoration projects.
In addition, the preliminary planning document (DPP) for the new masterplan (currently being drafted) follows the regional landscape plans in seeking to promote the region’s self-sustainable socioeconomic growth by preserving and repairing its social, cultural and environmental assets (DeBellis, et al., 2015).
At sectoral level, the hydrogeological masterplan of the Apulia Region Water Basin Authority also points to the importance of increasing the quality of urban and peri-urban landscapes, with a special focus on geomorphologic features of the landscape that need to be conserved and developed to increase hydraulic security (DeBellis, et al. 2017).
NBS 1: Operation Zero Degradation (Revitalising residual urban areas as green spaces)
The Bari Urban Living Lab and Focus Learning Alliance, organised as part of the Green surge project funded under the FP7, focused on the reuse of existing vacant areas in the city and created scenarios for transforming them into urban green areas.
NBS 2: Shagree (Green shadows programme)
The Green Shadows Programme (Shagree) announced in 2014 by the city of Bari aims to increase urban green space. It involves the pilot construction of green areas covering a total of 2 000 m2 on the roofs of certain buildings in the city centre. The project’s main goals are to:
- find new areas for growing plants to help counteract the effects of climate change inside buildings and hydrogeological risk;
- protect citizens from pollution.
The idea is that owners of suitable roof areas do not have to pay for the installation of the green areas or for maintenance during the initial period. A consortium of SMEs is in charge of running the project. The SMEs are financed by a living lab as part of an ICT-focused project entitled ‘Home — Living Labs’ 2017. The project has not been implemented yet.
NBS 3: Lama Balice Nature Park
The Lama Balice Nature Park was established as a protected area by the Apulia region on the site of an abandoned area, protecting one of the lame north of the centre of Bari. The nature park protects the area of the riverbed in the periphery of the city, acting as a natural channel for regulating water flow. It also serves as a recreational/cultural hub, while conserving agricultural functions. An administrative body made up of the mayors of the participating local authorities has been set up to manage the protected area (“Parco Naturale Regionale Lama Balice | Sito ufficiale,” 2015).
This natured-based solution is expected to provide the following benefits:
- health benefits;
- mitigation of the urban heat island effect;
- air purification;
- restoration/maintenance of habitats and biodiversity;
- water flow regulation and the reduction of impacts from heavy precipitation events.
(“Tetti verdi: a Bari ne sorgeranno 2000 metri quadrati grazie al progetto Shagree,” 2014)
Given that the vacant areas are potentially scattered all over the city, the impacts in terms of connectivity and improved drainage might be limited. In places where lame are present in the vacant areas, the impacts of improved drainage would be higher, but even in isolated vacant areas there would be benefits for the surrounding area. In such areas, the greening of vacant areas would increase the quality of urban spaces and provide places for social interaction, while also improving evapotranspiration and the ground’s capacity to absorb rainwater by vegetation and non-impervious soils.
NBS 1: Operation Zero Degradation — Revitalising residual urban areas as green spaces.
The Green Surge project provided evidence of some economic benefits in the form of increases in the economic activity of cafés and bars in the proximity of green areas (Andersson, Kronenberg, Haase, & Adams, 2015).
NBS 2: Shagree (Green shadows programme)
Increased urban greening on rooftops and in courtyards could provide potential benefits in terms of increased insulation of buildings, reducing cooling demand in summer and reducing needs for heating in winter.
NBS 3: Lama Balice Nature Park
Benefits provided by the project:
- preserved and enhanced environmental quality and biodiversity;
- greater availability of green areas in the periphery of the city.
Benefits from improved drainage:
- reduced impacts from flooding on buildings and structures;
- reduced impact on the coast by reducing pollution from drainage overflows.
The high building density in the city of Bari places physical limits on greening initiatives, while the availability of land is hampered by the municipal authorities’ limited resources. Rather than using economic resources on many minor projects, city officials seek to focus these resources on finalising projects to improve urban green space and its sustainability (DeBellis et al. 2015). The existence of numerous fragmented green or open spaces created in the context of obligations for building permits (see below) poses heavy management issues, as the city struggles to keep account of these spaces.
The Urban Learning Lab and the Focus Learning Alliance succeeded in raising interest among citizens’ initiatives, professionals, SMEs and residents. However, the city administration participated in the first meeting only. The metropolitan area has also implemented participatory initiatives, such as the strategic plan for Bari (Bari 2015). Nevertheless, its initiatives were slightly less ambitious than those carried out under the Green Surge project. Whereas Green Surge aimed at co-designing greening scenarios for selected vacant areas, the metropolitan area planning aimed at ‘collecting project ideas’ from citizens (‘Bari 2015 Metropoli Terra Di Bari’ 2017).
Green Surge analysed the relationship between urban green areas and the presence of bars and cafés, finding a higher density of bars in areas close to urban green areas (i.e. at a distance of 5-100 m) than in the city as a whole. Although the study did not quantify the positive impacts, it highlights the potential urban green areas have for stimulating economic activities related to recreation and leisure (Andersson et al., 2015).
Factors limiting success are:
- a lack of conceptual knowledge of how to construct and coordinate multifunctional green space networks;
- lack of public awareness;
- gaps in the participation of municipal, provincial and regional authorities and in cooperation between these different levels of public administration (DeBellis, et al., 2015).
A further limiting factor is the lack of public space for the realisation of green areas. The urban planning rules requiring investors to put in place urban infrastructure is used by the public authorities to create new pocket parks and permeable parking lots in new housing developments, but the authorities struggle to manage and maintain these areas.
With scarce direct financing for public green policies, green areas in real estate projects are established by private investors under urban planning permits. Green areas are often planned and/or established as part of building investments on different scales, such as Fuksas’s unrealised plan for the railway area (“Baricentrale - Riqualificazione Area Ferroviaria,” 2013) and the creation of underground parking with a green area on top at Piazza Cesare Battisti. At the same time, some green areas are the result of stand-alone projects such as the Punta Perotti park, which was created in place of demolished buildings on the coastline.
The city of Bari received financing from the Urbact Programme (Urban project, programming period 2007-2013) for the architectural and socioeconomic upgrading of a central urban area, but no green infrastructure was included (“Urban regeneration brings hope to Italian town-Projects - Regional Policy - European Commission,” 2009).
Beyond the collaboration of Green Surge with local authorities on the mapping of green areas, the intentions of the Green Surge project were not fully achieved. This was because no direct implementation by the city authorities was possible: the project ideas were judged as ‘abstract’ by a representative of the city administration. Success was also hindered by budget and operational limitations (for example, accessing the land on which the greening work was to be carried out). Although urban authorities are interested in acquiring knowledge provided by research projects, these authorities are overloaded with routine activities and find it difficult to incorporate new initiatives like this into their day-to-day work. While city authorities participated in the first urban learning lab organised by Green Surge, no representative from the urban administration participated in the Focus learning labs.
Regional and provincial (PPTR) territorial coordination plans: PPTR (2016) (http://www.sit.puglia.it/portal/portale_pianificazione_regionale/Piano%20Paesaggistico%20Territoriale/Documenti/PPTRApprovato)
Regional urban landscape plan (PUTT/P): Regione Puglia (2006). Piano Urbanistico Territoriale Tematico ‘Paesaggio’. (http://www.sit.puglia.it/portal/portale_pianificazione_regionale/Piano%20Urbanistico%20Territoriale%20Tematico/Documenti)
Andersson, E., Kronenberg, J., Haase, D., & Adams, C. (2015). Cash flows generated by urban green spaces (GREEN SURGE deliverable No. 4.2). Retrieved from http://Green Surge.eu/working-packages/wp4/D4.2_Final__2_.pdf
Bari 2015 Metropoli Terra di Bari. (2015). Retrieved April 13, 2017, from http://www.ba2015.org/index.php
Baricentrale - Riqualificazione Area Ferroviaria. (2013). Retrieved April 14, 2017, from http://www.fuksas.it/it/Progetti/Baricentrale-Riqualificazione-Area-Ferr...
DeBellis, Y., Spanò, M., Lafortezza, R., & Sanesi, G. (2015). Bari Italy (Case Study City Portrait; part of a GREEN SURGE study on urban green infrastructure planning and governance in 20 European cities).
Musolino, G., & Panuccio, P. (2013). Planning instruments in Italy and the UK: private and public spaces for emergency events in urban areas (pp. 565–574). https://doi.org/10.2495/SAFE130501
Paesaggio Puglia - Scenario strategico. (2016). Retrieved April 13, 2017, from http://www.paesaggiopuglia.it/pptr/scenario-strategico.html
Parco Naturale Regionale Lama Balice | Sito ufficiale. (2015). Retrieved April 13, 2017, from http://www.parcolamabalice.it/#content
Tetti verdi: a Bari ne sorgeranno 2000 metri quadrati grazie al progetto Shagree. (2014). Retrieved April 13, 2017, from https://www.greenme.it/abitare/bioedilizia-e-bioarchitettura/12579-tetti...
Urban regeneration brings hope to Italian town-Projects - Regional Policy - European Commission. (2009). Retrieved April 26, 2017, from http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/projects/italy/urban-regeneration...
Yole de Bellis, University of Bari, Author of the Green Surge case study for Bari
Carla Tedesco, assessor for urban planning in the city of Bari.