Annual land take, 2010-2030


Observations for policy

A growing economy or growing population can lead to changes in land use. The expansion of built-up areas can occur at the expense of nature and natural resources. Sustainable growth and integrated policies can mitigate the negative effects of land take. As suggested in the Sixth Cohesion Report, urban development could focus on the redevelopment of brownfields or by encouraging new developments close to existing transport routes.

Land take is expected to be largest in agricultural regions in Poland, Spain and France. The economic crisis is expected to have an impact on the change in land take. In Greece, for example, the economic development forecasts a decrease of built-up areas. This includes residential, industrial and commercial areas and could open debates on policies regarding empty buildings (e.g. abandonment, demolishment, conservation).

Policy context

Europe promotes a sustainable growth which concerns also land use. Land can be used for urban functions, agriculture or could cover natural sights important for the biodiversity of the continent. The flagship initiative for a resource-efficient Europe under the Europe 2020 strategy supports the shift towards a resource-efficient, low-carbon economy to achieve sustainable growth. The Roadmap to Resource Efficiency 2050 includes a target on land take. The average of annual additional land take of 920 km2 from 2000-2006 should be reduced to 800 km2 in 2030 and 0 km2 by 2050.

The growth of residential, industrial and commercial areas increases soil sealing which contributes to global warming and climate change and can occur at the expense of agricultural land or nature sights and the ecosystem service related to it.

These objectives have been translated to EU Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 where the protection of the environment and the promotion of resource efficiency is one of the thematic objectives.

Map interpretation

The map illustrates the results of a baseline scenario for the change in land take between 2010 and 2030. Socio-economic and demographic developments can have an impact on the amount of residential, industrial and commercial areas in a region. On average an increase of urban surface of 898 km2 of new artificial land per year is expected for the time span 2010 – 2030. The map shows that the majority of land take can be dedicated to a few regions, while the annual land take in other regions might even decrease.

Mainly regions in Eastern Europe are expected to have a decrease of land take until 2030. This entails the three Baltic States, Slovakia and Bulgaria entirely and large parts of Romania and Greece. In Romania and Greece only a minor increase of land take is expected in the urban and major touristic regions (Greek islands). Other regions with a decrease in land take are more scattered around Europe. Negative land take values are to be seen as a potential for instance for nature development, based on expected economic and demographic trends (low GDP, diminishing population).

Most of Europe’s regions are expected to have a minor increase in land take values. This group of regions is diverse, ranging from more sparsely populated regions in the Nordic countries to more densely populated regions in Belgium and Germany and regions in Italy and Spain.

Especially more agricultural regions in Eastern Europe as well as in France and Spain are expected to have a large increase in land take. Mainly agricultural areas near existing urban developments are at risk to be occupied with residential industrial and commercial areas.

Concepts and methods

The annual change in land take for the period 2010-2030 is based on the forecast model METRONAMICA. This forecasting tool measures the increase of residential areas and areas for industry and commercial activities based on the impact of external influences (e.g. macro-economic changes) and population growth), policy measures (e.g. land use zoning, conservation policies, densification policies etc.).

Demographic and economic evolutions are based on models. These are translated into land-use demands and allocations using assumptions based on historical developments. The annual land take is calculated at a 1km grid level and displayed as change in km2 per year per NUTS3 region.

The baseline scenario refers to business-as-usual development, i.e. that the general land use behaviour is similar to that of the historic period 1990-2006. Furthermore and among others, the following assumptions have been applied: (1) Densification continues as before. (2) Limited developments in Natura 2000 sites. (3) Outside of Natura 2000, no open spaces will be protected. (4) The change of the structure of the landscape will continue as before. (5) Utilised agricultural area will decrease.