Ecological Sustainability and Urban Green Space

Urban Density and Green Structure Case Studies

Ringkøbing -DK

Stocksbridge -UK

Oslo -Forsheimer -N

Poland- Green networks -PL

Tidaholm & Trollhatten -S

Social Impacts of sustainable Housing

Oslo - city centre -N

Helsinki - Espoo -SU

Political Instruments

Norway - N

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Density with Quality - implementing sustainability


Unn Ellefsen, Ministry of Environment in Norway

The Ministry of Environment in Norway has taken an initiative to co-operate with two Ministries, the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development and the Ministry of Agriculture, and 6 municipalities ( Oslo, Baerum, Skien, Bergen, Sykkylven and Kristiansand) in order to develop better political instruments for implementing density with quality in urban areas.

This is not a research programme, but a development project based on empirical case-studies selected by each municipality, begun in the Autumn 1997.


The objective of this project

Primarily to improve and develop political instruments to ensure more efficient and qualitative land use within the developed urban areas (ie density). It also aims to establish better models of co-operation, both within the ministries and at the national and local level. The studies may contribute in the longer term to the work of changing planning legislation in this field.



Report to the Norwegian Storting nr. 29 (1996-97), Regional planning and land use policy, in which the following items were discussed:

  • More efficient land utilisation (densification) is an important part of the policy for sustainable development
  • Increasing pressure on undeveloped land makes it necessary to develop efficient political instruments for implementation of the policy

In the first stage of the project the following main issues were identified:


  • Ensure the quality in the surroundings of the environment for each project
    • - care for the green-structure

      - new houses to be compatible with existing ones

      - common areas for recreation and play

      - common infrastructure



  • Ensure parity in the distribution of advantages and disadvantages within an area
    • - densification should bring in new qualities to an area, and the expense should be distributed fairly



  • Ensure predictability, clarifying with the sector interests the acceptable use of time and real involvement
    • - necessary involvement of both the public authorities and the population



Definition of densification used in this project

Densification results:

  • when the decision is taken in an area of existing development to increase density by adding, for example, new single family housing
  • when an area is re-developed the land is used at a much higher density, for example, when turning an old industrial area into a high density housing area
  • when the decision is taken to develop new areas at a greater density than originally envisaged in development plans.


To deal with these challenges, the municipalities are working within three different working groups: on legal, economic and organisational matters. The leader of each group, representatives from the three different ministries and the project co-ordinator form the steering group. In order to maintain impetus and creative input throughout the duration of the project ( 3 years), there is also a reference group.

Organisational structure

  • The three ministries, the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, and the leaders of the three working groups form the Steering Group
  • The 6 different municipalities put forward the case studies and identification of the issues
  • Three working groups set up to discuss
    • I Legal Instruments

      II Economic Instruments

      III Organisational Instruments

  • Experts on these three subjects will work together with the municipalities



The municipalities have chosen their own case studies: areas under regulation or in the process of gaining higher area density.

Based on the definition of density and the main "challenges" referred to above, the project is structured as follows:


The project will deal with the different "challenges" by using different instruments



Legal instruments

Organisational instruments

Economic instruments

Achieve good quality

Parity of distribution of advantages and disadvantages

Means of achievement


The case studies







Ris - Slemdal

Holtet Økern


Nyveien Ropern Langodden












Grebstad Klokkehaug Aure sentrum

The case studies themselves dictate the different approaches which are to be taken during this project.

Some of the topics are as follows:

some legal approaches:

  • division/allocation of costs in the construction period, management and maintenance of the common area
  • use of "plot allotment" legislation (the re-allocation of land ownership) -a main topic in the project!! Possibility to integrate with planning and building law.
  • right of first refusal for green areas, so that green areas have the same importance as private parking.


some organisational approaches:

  • establish criteria for the organisation of complex development of urban areas
  • ensure implementation of the endorsed land use plan; establish a competent body
  • involvement processes
  • the role of the public;- predictability, use of time, and binding collaboration
  • use of contracts and negotiations in development areas as prerequisites for their applications


some economic approaches:

  • available financial support, housing loans e.g. in order to achieve density with better quality
  • social costs and effects of different types of development areas (field developments versus densification)
  • establish the cost of noise pollution in order to develop a mechanism for dealing with densification at junctions and along existing streets/highways


Work up to now:

A common working programme has been worked out. It describes the challenges and approaches which will have priority in future work.

The working groups themselves will give consideration to the areas of interest through discussion, theoretical simulations and external reports. Practical research will also be carried out in pilot areas using the new political instruments. It is aimed to achieve a sound link between these practical approaches and professional development work.

Reports which are to be started during this Summer/Autumn:


1. Report on alternative methods for cost allocation in the development, management and maintenance of common areas and constructions

  • Refund system, taxes, severance, first refusal, contract of development

2. Creating examples of the possibilities and limitations for municipalities to form and implement their policy for development according to current legislation

  • The coherence of the master plan, programme of development, local plan and ultimate aims

3. Use of "plot allotment" instruments for implementation in areas where densification is wanted

  • Appraise actual and potential use of the instrument of plot allotment legislation, in order to solve problems in the pilot areas
  • Appraise the processes of re-allocation of land in connection with organisation, planning and implementation

4. Estimate the use of concessions and the right of first refusal

  • Importance of the municipality's site strategy and policy of property management in implementing a development policy
  • Need for change to simplify the municipalities' decision-making process as an instrument of implementation

5. Development of planning instrument and planning regulations in the Planning and Building Act

  • Summary of the project's conclusions and the possible need for changes to the Planning and Building Act

6. Obtain information and experiences about best practices in other countries' planning systems for implementing densification

7. Experiences from different models of implementation in some of the municipalities

  • ways in which different development projects are organised
  • experiences of the municipalities relating to development and land policy

8. Summary of experience of various areas of interest

9. Consequences for society of better utilisation of land area (better land use)

  • Seminar for presentation of current knowledge

10. Summary of economic instruments

  • Summary of national, regional and local economic instruments, both positive and negative

11. Consequences of cost allocation of main technical installations

  • Summary of practice


What do we want to achieve?


  • Deliver proposals for ongoing legislation, by developing the work of the Planning and Building Act
  • Provide practical solutions in the municipalities
  • Give appropriate examples and guidance

Deliver proposals to other processes which are working with political instruments.


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