Workshop II Sofia
Originally amongst the greenest capitals in Europe, Sofia has reduced its maintaining efforts for parks and gardens within the last years due to a lack of available funding. This gradually lead to a decay of park infrastructure.
Since 2011, Sofia’s green spaces are managed by the “Green System”, a department of the city government under the supervision of vice-mayor Joana Hristova. “Green Sofia” (GS) is responsible for controlling all objects within the green network of Sofia that are owned by the city and for creating and maintaining urban green infrastructure. In order to improve Sofia’s green spaces, GS recently launched a renovation projects that aims at renovating three of Sofia’s main parks by improving the park infrastructure.
Nevertheless, Sofia is still confronted with various organizational, legal and planning challenges concerning green space planning, which were discussed in the CapaCity workshop within the framework of the “Vienna Days”.
After presentations of Vienna’s and Sofia’s green space planning efforts and projects, city and government representatives as well as stakeholders from NGOs, universities and citizen initiatives discussed recent challenges and opportunities for Sofia’s green space system. Representatives of the city administrations of Sofia and Vienna discussed the usage and legal basis of public green spaces. The organization and construction of green spaces, successful collaboration between stakeholders and the preservation of historic parks were identified as Sofia’s main challenges. It was pointed out that due to a lack of cadaster and well-documented land-use plans green spaces are often built upon without permission. It was therefore recommended to set up a detailed land-use plan and legal guidelines for further development.
Another issue is the lack of accessibility of historic public green spaces due to higher maintenance costs and fear of disorganization. This also leads to misuse of residential green spaces; therefore, it was suggested to open large green spaces for public use in order to improve the citizens’ identification with their urban green and hence strengthen their acceptance for planning decisions.
The discussion of NGOs and research representatives focused on the importance of citizen involvement; here, the program “Green Sofia” was mentioned as a positive example for including citizens in the creation and implementation of new planning ideas. However, it was agreed on a strong need for more possibilities to involve citizens at an early stage in the planning process and to improve the communication between the city and the citizens.
The design and maintenance of green spaces was also seen as a challenge, since responsibilities are often unclear. Spaces for recreational use are also rare and green spaces are often polluted. Hence, stricter regulations and penalties were recommended and to strengthen public awareness by urban gardening projects. Also, city department responsible for waste removal should be installed.
In general, it was also discussed to decrease motorized traffic and to introduce more environmental-friendly means of transport like public transport and bicycling. This also requires stricter regulations and the expansion of mobility networks within the city.
Further steps to intensify the collaboration between Vienna and Sofia in the field of green space planning could be follow-up workshops or common projects with stakeholders of both cities in order to work out specific solutions for the discussed issues.