A New Institutional Order for Regulating Urban Sprawl In the space of two years, between 1999 and 2000, the passage of two laws on intercommunality and the adoption of the law on ‘Solidarity and Urban Renewal’ have revamped the institutional framework of the government of the cities. In reinforcing the intercommunal level and raising the control of peripheral urbanization to become the major objective of urban ‘renewal’, this new legislative system is moving in the direction of a more coherent and more efficient management of urban sprawl at the level of the agglomération.
From ‘Communal Explosion’ to Communities of City and Suburbs, and Urban Communities (1999) The laws known as the Voynet2 (26 June 1999) and Chevènement3 (12 July 1999) laws have strengthened the emergence of an authority for agglomérations in going farther than previous efforts towards supra-communal management. They have further developed the means, competence and fiscal resources necessary for putting into place an integrated strategy of development.
Two new structures were created by the law of 12 July 1999: les communautés d’agglomération and the communautés urbaines. The communautés d’agglomération, which replace the districts and communities of communes, form a group of communes in single block, numbering at least 50,000 inhabitants around a city centre of more than 15,000 inhabitants. The communautés urbaines are reserved for the largest cities, and must include at least 500,000 inhabitants. Since the end of 1999, fifty communautés d’agglommération and two communautés urbaines have been created, and thirty more communautés d’agglomération are planned.
Among the numerous powers attributed to these structures, several, such as the development of space or the management of transportation and the habitat, are directly linked to the question of urban sprawl and its regulation. The principal innovations brought in by this law are found in the creation of two financial levers: the adoption of the single professional tax, and the attribution of an overall allocation for functioning. In addition, the communautés d’agglomération and the communautés urbaines are the principal representatives and beneficiaries of the State-region planning contracts within the framework of the agglomeration contracts. These contracts are defined in the framework of the agglomération projects encouraged by the law of 25 June 1999. The creation of communities, projects and contracts for agglomérations could thus ratify the recognition of the level of the agglomération as a territory of consultation, management and decision.
The Solidarity and Urban Renewal Law and the Limitation of Peripheral Urbanisation The SRU law, adopted in December 2000, which is part and parcel of the general struggle against urban explosion, and the implementation of the right to housing, extends the spirit of this legislative operation by encouraging a better intercommunal coordination. More specifically, it also declares that one of its objectives is the limitation of peripheral urbanization. The awareness of the problem of urban sprawl is expressed in the modification of the documents of urbanism in the direction of a closer coordination between policies of urbanism, the habitat and travel, and in new local policies related to public transportation.
Modification in the documents concerning urbanism Adjustments have been planned to modify the documents related to urbanism established by the real estate law of 1967. The Local Plan for Urbanism (PLU) will replace the POS at the communal level at the time of its revision. In the spirit of the SRU law, the integration of new measures should enable the communes to favor urban renewal (to ‘reconstruct the city on the city’), and to control peripheral extension, for example in the form of fiscal measures: taxes for exceeding the maximum ceilings of density are eliminated in order not to discourage certain projects for urban recomposition; in addition, the inclusive valuations used to compute the local tax for facilities are corrected to help in the construction of collective housing.
The Scheme for Territorial Coherence (SCOT) is to replace the Schema Directeur (Guiding Scheme). Like the Guiding Schemes, the Schemes for Territorial Coherence will provide specifications at the level of the agglomération for overall objectives for development and urbanism, taking into account the policies for the habitat, for leisure activities, for services and infrastructures. Within the framework of the most recent reforms concerning intercommunality, they fit between the plan for agglomérations, of which they are the spatial extension, and the contract for agglomération that constitutes one of the means of their implementation. They are nonetheless distinguished from the Guiding Schemes by their more constraining character. Indeed, in the absence of a SCOT, the future zones of urbanization of the communes defined in the local plan for urbanism could not be opened to urbanization. Within this framework, the communes would therefore have less freedom to urbanise their territory.