Policy arrangements Warsaw

Barbara Szulczewska

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Policy arrangements











Policy arrangements Warsaw Poland


In my case the most influential discours(es) in relation to green structure planning is / are*:

In Warsaw the tradition of contemporary greenstructure planning reaches back to the beginning of the 20th century, when the first spatial plans for the city's development were elaborated, and the idea of the neighbourhood with carefully designed green open spaces introduced.

Since then different concepts in regard to green space have emerged as aspects of greenstructure planning connected with the problems seen as particularly important or just "in fashion" at the given time. So present shape and elements of greenstructure in Warsaw should be considered as an effect of different discourses which influenced planning practice in the 20th century.

I adopt the definition of discours used by Marleen: "specific ensemble of ideas, concepts and categorizations that are produced, reproduced, and transformed in a particular set of practices and through which meaning is given to physical and social realities". (Hajer, 1995: 57)

The most influential discourses, presented in order of precedence:

ß 'Green Wedges' - first referred to in the 1929 Master Plan for Warsaw. These had as their aim the linking up of recreational areas from the centre to the suburbs, as well as the safeguarding of proper air ventilation.

ß Land-use zonation, including as regards green space &endash; first referred to in theoretical concept of 'Functional Warsaw' devised in 1934. This again stressed the importance of connecting urban and regional natural structures (assigned the same status as connections in the fields of transport and the economy, but placed the need for natural conditions to be analysed at the heart of proper land-use zonation, including as regards green space).

ß 'Parks of Culture and Leisure' - in the 1950s saw the emphasis put firmly on political and social aspects, such that 'the parks of culture and leisure' approach was adopted. The program for these was pursued carefully, with the aim of their affording cultural entertainment for the public in the form of cinemas, amphitheatres, etc., as well as ensuring conditions for sport and recreation via the building of stadia, playgrounds, etc. A special design for this sort of park was recommended. The system of such parks was planned for Warsaw.

ß 'Multifunctional Centres for Leisure and Entertainment' - being planned and indicated in 1960s and 1970s. While some centres have been developed since then, the land reserves for others were only retained into the 1990s.

ß 'System of Open Spaces in Cities' - theoretical concept published in 1968, and then developed in 1974 regarded as important for greenstructure planning. This emphasized a structural role of open spaces, not only green spaces, but all urban areas that were not built up. In line with its assumptions, open areas provided appropriate space for linear technical infrastructure development, as well as greenstructure.

ß Standards and indicators - for greenstructure development were accepted in the 1960s and were to influence the pattern, surface areas and functions of green space significantly until the early 1980s; providing for the maintenance of proportionality between built-up and green areas in a city (8 &endash; 15 square meters of greenery per inhabitant), as well as for facilities allowing residents to participate in different types of recreation.

ß Concept of the hierarchical recreational system &endash; comprising neighbourhood, district, assembly of districts and whole city, each with its own particular levels of recreational facilities provided to fulfil different needs; abandoned in 90s.

ß 'Urban Natural (or Ecological) System concept' - came to be promoted in the 1980s. It was developed as a consequence of implementing ecosystem theory into the planning process, it also stresses the importance of the preservation, conservation and creation of ecological systems in ensuring proper living conditions for city dwellers via the setting-aside of space for nature to function.

ß 'Sustainable city': 'green city' and 'compact city' concepts - these are the which both exemplify the more general idea of the 'ecological city', and both base themselves around ecosystem theory. While the 'green city' focuses on the relationship between built-up areas and those capable of ensuring natural conditions and functioning (offering a methodology by which to intentionally plan a natural system through an urbanised area), the 'compact city' draws on the model of ecosystem functioning, stressing matter and energy flows in the arrangement of a city's functioning. Both have been applied recently in greenstructure planning in Warsaw, with 'green city' backing the protection and development of greenstructure, while 'compact city' promotes an intensification that develops built-up areas at the expense of green space.


The discourses in key words:

ß Green Wedges: 20s of the 20th century

ß Land-use zonation: 30s of the 20th century

ß Parks of Culture and Leisure: - 50s the 20th century

ß Multifunctional Centres for Leisure and Entertainment: 60s of the 20th century

ß System of Open Spaces in Cities: 70s of the 20th century

ß Standards and indicators: 60s &endash; 80s of the 20th century

ß Concept of the hierarchical recreational system 70s of the 20th century

ß Concept of Urban Natural (or Ecological) System: 80s &endash; still in force

ß Sustainable city: green city and compact city concepts: 90s &endash; still in force


In Warsaw certain &endash; still existing &endash; elements of greenstructure were introduced and constructed according to different discourses mentioned above. At present those discources are not in force any more, however their physical effects can be indicated in Warsaw space as parks, neighbourhood greenery, wedges and so on.


Two of described discourses are nowadays important for greenstructure policy: 1) concept of Urban Natural System and 2) concept of Sustainable City: green city and compact city.

The concept of Urban Natural System was introduced into 'Capital City of Warsaw Development Plan, Including Obligatory Guidelines for the Warsaw Boroughs in Preparing Local Spatial Developments Plans of 2001' The latest version accepted in 2001 regulates the pattern and function of greenstructure for the whole city by way of appropriate written guidelines for the Urban Natural System among other things. Three key zones indicated in the plan reflect adherence to the Urban Natural System concept. These are the Ecological Zone, the Auxiliary Zone to the Ecological System and the Zone of the Air Ventilation and Regeneration System.

The second discourse refers to the debate if and how planners and politicians should find a balance between 'green city' and 'compact city' Today's Warsaw offers a good example of the fight between the two aforementioned concepts. Both concepts are in fact being employed rather ideologically, with only weak reference to their real scope, assumptions and guidelines. Advocates of the first concept try to safeguard the functioning of almost each greenstructure element, while supporters of 'the compact city' would like to see almost every undeveloped spot, especially in central districts, built up.


What actor (coalitions), rules of the game, tools, and resources go along with this /these discourses?

Policy actors

At the moment policy actors can be indicated, however it would be difficult to describe policy coalitions in the field of greenstructure planning and management. In fact, such coalitions e.g. co-operation between developers, local authorities and communities, still are sort of wishful thinking or declaration, mostly in papers presented at a landscape architects and town planners conferences and seminars.

Actors at the planning level:

ß Warsaw City Hall and Warsaw Council &endash; responsible for general policy of greenstructure development.

ß Department of Spatial Planning and Architecture of Warsaw City Hall &endash; working out and implementing 'Capital City of Warsaw Development Plan, Including Obligatory Guidelines for the Warsaw Boroughs (Gminas) in Preparing Local Spatial Developments Plans'.

ß Halls of Warsaw Boroughs (usually Departments of Urban Planning and Environmental Protection) &endash; working out Studies of Pre-conditions and Directions for Spatial Development and Local Spatial Developments Plans &endash; since October 2002 they have been transformed into Halls of Warsaw Districts

ß Mazowieckie Voiwodship Council and Board &endash; working out regional spatial plan with regard to regional context of Warsaw greenstructure.

ß Polish Society of Town Planners and Society of Polish Architects &endash; Warsaw Divisions &endash; lobbing, opinions, inspirations also workshops, competitions and conferences organizers.

ß NGOs &endash; there are several organizations which take part in public debates on greenstructure (its particular elements) development; ecological disposition of these organizations dominates.


Actors at the management level


Managed objects

The City Hall.

Department of Environmental Protection. The City Landscape Architect six parks (170 ha); fifteen complexes of urban forest (2700 ha); main street greenery (1200 ha)

The Halls of Warsaw Communes (since October 2002 &endash; Halls of Warsaw Districts).

Usually Departments of Urban Planning and Environmental Protection Parks, squares and other green spaces that are not managed by the City

The Housing Associations

The greenery associated with neighbourhoods

Owners and managers of buildings for public use

The greenery associated with building for public use like universities, schools, hospitals

The Nature Conservator

The protected areas, especially nature reserves (presently eleven reserves indicated)

The Conservator of Historical Monuments Historic parks and gardens

The Water Management Board Part of the Vistula Valley within flood embankments


Rules of the game

Formal rules, which work for the whole country, constitute several legal regulations which refer to greenstructure (their particular elements) protection, development and management. They are as follows:

ß Act on Physical Development (1994) concentrates first of all on procedures not on standards but requires to take into consideration while elaboration of Study of the commune spatial development conditions and directions specific conditions for land development because of needs of natural and cultural environment protection; protection of greenstructures can be interpreted as "specific conditions" or even limitation for development. It also allows while elaboration of Local development plan to establish conditions for development, including prohibition of building because of greenstructure protection and development.

ß Act on Environmental Protection (2001) requires from planning documents (particularly on the local level) to solve problems of town and countryside development, taking into consideration greenstructure management. It allows establishing proportion between built-up and open spaces necessary for nature balance preservation (local plans and decision on land use and building pattern).

ß Act on Nature Protection (1991; last amendment 2000) orders protection of greenery in towns and villages, particularly trees and shrubs. It defines the term: green open spaces as spaces within built-up areas which are designed for following purposes: recreation, health, education, aesthetics; in particular they consist of parks, squares, boulevards and promenades, playgrounds, botanical gardens, zoo, ethnographical gardens, horticulture and agriculture exhibitions, cemeteries, animal burial site, barrows (tumulus), fortifications, domestic garden, estate green.

ß Decree on Classification of Building and Grounds (1996) recognises green areas as recreational ones (the term green area is not used in the Act) and establishes following types of these areas: resorts, playgrounds, beaches, parks, squares, ruins, old rampart, nature monuments, sport fields, amusement grounds.

Formal rules for Warsaw:

In Warsaw greenstructure planning, as almost everywhere else, is pursued within the spatial planning system. Nevertheless, as an association of eleven (boroughs) gminas, Warsaw has certain special features. Each of its gmina must by law devise planning documents independently, but the City Hall has to control and co-ordinate development of key city structures through the devising of a special plan entitled 'Capital City of Warsaw Development Plan, Including Obligatory Guidelines for the Warsaw Boroughs in Preparing Local Spatial Developments Plans of 2001'. The latest version accepted in 2001 regulates the pattern and functioning of greenstructure for the whole city by way of appropriate written guidelines for the urban natural system and green space, among other things. It should be stressed that, as the product of negotiations among eleven local authorities, the final form of these guidelines, has allowed certain green space to vanish.

Greenstructure management in Warsaw is also influenced by the specific administrative structure of the city. Part of areas are managed by City Hall and part by Halls of 11 Boroughs (Gminas).

Power and resources


What is lacking?


ß General lack of funds for maintenance and development of green spaces (in last year only one park in Warsaw was regenerated).


ß Very general guidelines and principles in legal regulation. It means that protection of areas which could or should be developed as green open spaces has very weak legal support.

ß No standards &endash; in local plans it is possible to establish proportion between built-up and open spaces necessary for nature balance preservation, but it is up to local authorities and planners what sort of proportion they decide as necessary. and decision on land use and building pattern.

ß No tradition of local communities organization upon greenstructure maintenance and development &endash; up till now the only form of common action is protest against e.g. development if green open spaces are endangered.

What we have?

ß Capital City of Warsaw Development Plan, Including Obligatory Guidelines for the Warsaw Boroughs in Preparing Local Spatial Developments Plans of 2001' The latest version accepted in 2001 regulates the pattern and functioning of greenstructure for the whole city by way of appropriate written guidelines for the urban natural system and green space, among other things. Three key zones indicated in the plan reflect adherence to the urban natural system concept. These are the:

1. Ecological Zone. Land in the Ecological Zone has been divided into protected areas, recreational areas, recreational/residential areas, and others. Each have their own provisions (bans or recommendations) formulated in line with particular valuable features of an environmental, ecological, historical or social character. While bans relate to the kind of development that can lead to a deterioration of valuable environmental features, recommendations formulate the best proposal by which to develop the ecological zone with minimum impact on the environment.

2. Auxiliary Zone to the Ecological System. The main role of the Auxiliary Zone is to maintain connectivity between dispersed green areas, and to serve as a buffer zone for the most natural landscapes. To this end, green belts of minimum width are designated (along streams, creeks and roads), and percentage green space for each area of development set with a view to the negative influence on valuable remnants of the natural landscape being limited.

3. Zone of the Air Ventilation and Regeneration System. The land of the Air Exchange and Regeneration System protects areas for shaping proper climatic conditions in Warsaw. It partially overlaps with the aforementioned ecological zone (in forests and parks), but also takes advantage of the ventilating properties of extensive wastelands, railroads and highways. Legal bans here relate to the building-up of any part of this zone, as well as to the location there of any kind of emitter of pollutants.

ß Strategic Program of Warsaw Green Open Space Development - it refers to the six parks which remain in responsibility of the city Hall, fifteen complexes of urban forest and main street greenery.

ß Green open spaces inventory &endash; it refers to all types of green open spaces in Warsaw (neighbourhood green open spaces included).




Items that you miss in the above description that you think of relevance but have not been discussed:




* Focus on dymamics!

Be descriptive, not normative at this time!




updated 25 oct 2002