AuthorRuano, Jose Manuel
  1. Introduction

    Strategic planning is understood here as an instrument for intervention in a city territory, based on citizen participation and the public-private pact that makes it possible to formulate shared visions of the future and to design the necessary actions and projects required to achieve the anticipated objectives. Thus, it involves a considered and consensual response of the main actors of the city to the main urban challenges.

    While it is true that strategic planning is an instrument that has traditionally been used by private enterprises, its application to the public sphere in Spain has been delayed, perhaps due to a great extent to the greater weightiness of administrative procedures and to the observance of strict normative legality, which made it difficult to apply forms of direction that involved actors, external to the bureaucratic organization, in decision-making about its future.

    The fact is that strategic planning tries to integrate the interests and needs of the main actors in the city, and it tries to establish, in a single instrument, the objectives and actions that should be initiated to achieve a harmonic development of the city in the long term. To this end, it is essential to identify the main urban actors, to design and apply a methodology that makes consensual decision-making possible, and to involve local actors throughout the process (Fernandez, 2006).

    Based on this definition, this article analyzes the experiences of strategic planning in Spanish cities, and then goes on to present in greater detail the case of the city of Mostoles, the second most populated city in the Madrid region, with over 200,000 inhabitants, where strategic planning is being used as an instrument to design the city's future. The methodology used is the study of the academic bibliography on this subject and the analysis of strategic planning documents in the main Spanish cities and, specifically, in the city of Mostoles. In this last case, the document analysis (Ayuntamiento de Mostoles, 2011) has been completed with in-depth interviews with the people responsible for designing and implementing the strategic plan (1).

  2. Experiences of local strategic planning in Spain

    While the first strategic urban plans began to be applied in North American cities in the 1980s, as a way to deal with the effects of the economic crises of the 1970s and 1980s on these cities, the first strategic plans for cities in Spain were designed and applied in the 1990s, mainly as tools for physical regeneration. This is partly due to the fact that the more traditional kind of planning for cities is urbanistic planning, linked to the approval of 'urban plans'. At any rate, the main objective of the municipal governments was to capture economic resources from the private sector to construct new infrastructures in order to stimulate economic development and to provide the cities with the equipment they lacked. However, the second generation of strategic plans launched from 2000 onward includes other strategic objectives related to citizens' quality of life and adopts a broader perspective of territory. This broader perspective is no longer restricted to the administrative limits of the city, but takes into account the cities' interactions with their environment. That is, it goes from a vision based on a main objective to a vision that contains multiple objectives, and from a strictly urban perspective to a focus on the city's territory as a metropolitan region, insofar as the solutions to the city's problems can be found in its relations with the metropolitan environment.

    Thus, the first plans implemented in Spanish cities, such as in the cases of Bilbao and Barcelona, tried to transform old, declining industrial cities and alleviate the insufficiencies of basic infrastructures as a way to stimulate their productive sectors and promote their economic recovery, while at the same time regenerating the city physically. The main objective was to go from cities that were dependent on traditional industries on the decline (shipyards, the textile sector, heavy industry, the iron and steel industry) to cities based on more diversified productive sectors, with the service sector as a clear leader. However, the first plans of the 1990s were not clearly defined, nor were they based on any consensus, and they gave too much weight to individual physical transformation projects compared to other more immaterial objectives. As it can be seen in the following table, the first strategic urban plans applied in Spain in the 1990s focused mostly on investment in new infrastructures as a basis for economic development, while the second generation plans, applied from 2000 onward, give greater importance to social cohesion, sports, culture, research and development, education and to the quality of life in cities; as such, they try to make economic development compatible with integration and social cohesion.

    Besides, from the point of view of the methodology used, the new plans are based on more flexible methodologies to achieve their goals and include more actors and interests to increase the coherence of the different strategic axes of intervention. Thus, while leadership and implementation fell almost exclusively on the city government in the 1990s, the role of urban actors, particularly business organizations and unions, gains importance in the second generation plans, as well as, on a second level, universities, neighborhood associations, financial entities, NGOs, and consumer associations. In the end, these plans' greater internal complexity reflects the very social complexity of the city, which is seen as a dense network of relations and interests with multiple actors who intervene simultaneously in a cooperative way (Ruano, 2010a).

    We must keep in mind that, in the Spanish case, urban areas experienced one of the highest population growth rates in Europe, from the mid-1990s to the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, with yearly growth rates of over 2%. It is, then, in this context of rapid population increase, the result of economic growth and the arrival of immigrant population, when local governments begin to lead their cities' transformation processes using second generation strategic plans that try to organize the provision of public goods and services, facilitating decision-making regarding the future by means of participatory processes that involve diverse social sectors, in order to anticipate the changes and demands of the environment. This policymaking exercise is based on the acknowledgement that all cities have physical and economic resources and possibilities for development, and that the interactions among the different actors who make up the city are a key element for carrying out the planning. Thus, from the 1990s onward, 60.85% of the Spanish cities with over 50,000 inhabitants (that is, 166 cities) have carried out some kind of exercise of strategic planning, although with different approaches and results (Prado and Garcia Sanchez, 2006, p. 661).

    Therefore, the strategic plans implemented from 2000 moved on from the development of urban infrastructures to immaterial objectives meant to guarantee the competitiveness and future of the cities. As mentioned earlier, this was the case for Bilbao and Barcelona, and for the rest of the large cities: Zaragoza committed itself to linking territory, activities, and people in order to achieve a technological city, taking advantage of the momentum of the 2008 International Exposition. The first plan in San Sebastian (2003) was developed along the axes of science and innovation, people and information society, as well as fomenting numerous social, cultural, and sports infrastructures. Malaga (2006) focused its second strategic plan on objectives related to social, economic, and environmental sustainability and on citizen participation. The 2010 Seville plan tried to define the city of the future from an urbanistic, cultural, and productive perspective, but it was also concerned about favoring the participation of citizens and of economic and social agents. With its 2007 plan, Valencia tried to create a network for managing knowledge in technological sectors, giving the university and its research centers a revitalizing role in the creation of a progressive city in the areas of information society and knowledge.

  3. The case of the Mostoles Strategic Plan

    3.1. The economic and social context

    Mostoles is the city with the second largest population in the Madrid Autonomous Community, after the capital. It is located 17 kilometers outside of Madrid and is, therefore, part of the Madrid metropolitan area. It went from having 196,173 inhabitants in 1996 to 206,478 inhabitants when it began to prepare its strategic plan in 2009. The economic crisis...

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