The culture of landscape in our country has been subject to a progressively maturing process, supported by a growing social consensus on the importance of attaining environmental quality. Land planning initiatives are increasingly required to take into account the values of a particular place, and they are needed to generate quality and improve the features of the place where they are applied. This would probably not have come to pass had there not been analysis, research, dissemination of knowledge, dialogue and debate about landscape in Catalonia over recent years, for which the Landscape Observatory of Catalonia is a gold standard.
Adding the landscape variable as a proactive asset, and not just an element of contemplation, has been an agent of change for the authorities, starting with the first Act 8/2005 passed on 8 June, concerning the Protection, Management and Classification of Landscape, and the establishment of the Landscape Observatory of Catalonia in the same year. Over time, this public initiative has developed a range of regulatory mechanisms, has produced manuals and guidelines and has established criteria with landscape at their core. These tools are extremely useful to implement landscape protection, management policies in territorial, urban and sectoral planning, to safeguard new uses and constructions in regard to land planning, and to encourage landscape governance based on participation and consensus.
Notably, these instruments have highlighted the extensive variety and wealth of landscape in Catalonia. The map of 134 landscape units in the country, in itself a great achievement, showcases this diversity, and it has become a good basis for both developing landscape policy locally and establishing a benchmark to develop urban, tourism and cultural policy.
We are currently including landscape as a key foundation in a new legislative project, the Preliminary Draft of the Territory Act. Territory with a consistent structure, where landscape is a constant element without administrative boundaries, must be the basis for developing territorial strategies that coordinate land planning initiatives. Furthermore, the Preliminary Draft of the Act factors landscape into all levels of planning and includes landscape processing for open spaces and urban ground.
At the same time, we are faced with another challenge, which is to ensure landscape policy has a greater impact in our environment, and that accumulated knowledge helps to establish genuine territorial quality. The River Paths Urban Master Plan, currently in process, represents an example of a practical initiative that explores the relationship between citizens and the environment.
In summary, we continue to make headway in developing initiatives that are genuinely effective in improving territorial landscape and that re-invest their value in inhabitants’ well-being.