La Mina Neighbourhood: Combining Urban Planning With Social Action

The La Mina neighbourhood is situated in the Sant Adrià de Besòs district, a municipality in the Barcelona metropolitan area. It was built in the 1970s to offer new housing opportunities for populations living in the different slum neighbourhoods of Barcelona. However, physical, geographical, economic and social disparities existed in La Mina. In the 1980s and 1990s the first intervention plans were introduced, which aimed to ameliorate the social situation. These action plans lacked coordination however, and did not have enough capacity to respond to the long-term issues in the neighbourhood. In September 2000, a specific Consortium for the neighbourhood was established, introducing a Transformation Plan based on urban and social revitalisation.

Issue and objective: an integrated intervention to strengthen the community

For the past thirty years the La Mina neighbourhood has been characterised by high unemployment and truancy rates. The area is isolated from neighbouring municipalities and surrounded by industry. Approximately 13,000 people live in the La Mina neighbourhood, of whom a large number live below the poverty line. In general, many of the La Mina residents are poorly educated and have difficulties in finding stable jobs.  Additionally, drug trafficking and consumption caused social disruption. The overall aim of the Transformation Plan - developed by the administrations involved in the Consortium - is to “transform the district with a global and integrated intervention in order to strengthen the community through improving social and urban issues”. For this reason, the Transformation Plan includes a wide range of economic, social, cultural and physical (urban renewal) interventions.

Approach: constituting an institutional partnership

The Transformation Plan for La Mina was drafted in 2001 and adopted in 2002. Initially, it was part of a statutory planning instrument, the PERM (Transformation Plan for La Mina neighbourhood). One of the key elements of the Transformation Plan is the Consortium, an institutional partnership between different levels of political administration: the municipality of Sant Adrià de Besòs (Ajuntaments), the Barcelona Provincial Council (Diputació), the City of Barcelona and the Government of Catalonia (Generalitat de Catalunya). The presidency of the consortium is shared between the Generalitat de Catalunya and Ajuntament de Sant Adrià de Besòs. The Consortium is responsible for overall coordination and the ensuring of the successful implementation of the plan. As mentioned before,  objectives have been set in two different action plans based on urban planning and social revitalisation. Through a communication plan managed by the Consortium, the action plans have been elaborated and disseminated widely to neighbourhood residents and local communities. Usually these residents were represented by social community associations.

The following courses of action are included in the Social Action Plan:

  • Training and occupational integration (e.g. Labour Network Services, job and skills training);
  • Balancing family and professional lives (e.g. providing child day care);
  • Development of the local economy (e.g. supporting local businesses);
  • Community participation and development;
  • Improving coexistence and civic-mindedness (e.g. combatting antisocial behaviour);
  • Social and educational support.


Physical interventions include the following:

  • Urban development of public spaces (e.g. new squares, streets, green areas);
  • Rehabilitating housing and improving access to buildings;
  • Creating new social housing and introducing private housing;
  • Providing better public transport connections to the metropolitan area of Barcelona;
  • Physically upgrading the coastline.


In addition, specific programmes have been developed for youngsters to upgrade their educational and professional levels, but also to improve their social skills. These programmes provide practical information and advice on how to find a job, emphasise the importance of responsibility and punctuality and give specific tips on how to maintain a good employer-employee relationship.

Results: newly developed areas and more job opportunities

Both action plans transformed many aspects of the neighbourhood. For instance, seventy social action programmes have already been developed and are being monitored by planning teams and social institutions. Participation by residents in the programmes took place through specifically organised dialogues, participatory workshops and informative sessions, and allowed citizens to be actively involved in decision-making procedures.

Over 6,000 people participated in Labour Network Services (one of the programmes of the Consortium’s Social Department) of whom 46% found jobs. In these networks, 58 enterprises are actively involved and 25 different kinds of training workshops have been provided. Furthermore, the old industrial area is transformed into an attractive new residential area with better public transport and access to surrounding municipalities of the metropolitan region. However, since the start of  the global crisis, the plan has not shown the same positive results when compared to actions taken during the pre-crisis period (2001-2007); the crisis has had a specific impact on employment and poverty.

EU involvement and the added value of cohesion policy on the project

Many of the projects of the La Mina Transformation Plan were developed as part of the URBAN II Initiative (2000-2006), a programme with the purpose of stimulating social and economic regeneration of deprived urban areas in the European Union. Within this  six-year period the EU contribution represented 50% of the total cost of 25.06 million Euros. The remainder was funded by the institutions representing the Consortium (the municipal administrations, County administration and the Catalan government). Within the framework of urban development projects, the ERDF contribution was extended until 2010. The total amount invested by means of  ERDF funding between 2000 and 2010 was €12.48 million which amounts to 17.26% of the total administration funds for the Transformation Plan.  The total amount invested using ESF funding between 2000 and 2010 was €2.25 million, 2.96% of the costs of the Transformation Plan.  Without EU funding it would not have been possible to finance all the urban and social projects which are part of the La Mina Transformation Plan. The Consortium applied for this EU funding as the plan’s goals reflect EU policy aims too. In this sense, Cohesion Policy contributed to the successful implementation of the plan.

Integrated urban development: a key component of la Mina

In every step of the plan integrated strategies have been implemented. The two main action plans complemented each other; they established an attractive environment to live in and at the same time normalised the social situation in the neighbourhood. Economic objectives have been met through the support of SMEs and social integrated services to improve access to the labour market for socially excluded groups. These services not only supported economic goals, but also stimulated community building. The rehabilitation of abandoned areas combined public and private housing and stopped the development of ghettoisation. Additionally, the improved public transport network to the Barcelona metropolitan area could stimulate employment growth, as residents of the neighbourhood have better access to the surrounding municipalities for job opportunities.

Spin offs: recognition around the globe

The Transformation Plan is a good example of urban regeneration using integrated interventions combining physical and social issues. It has won several prizes and much recognition and it was widely disseminated among national and international forums such as the Spanish National Urbanism Award (2008), the Oxford Brookes Institute, the European Investment Bank (2008), UN Habitat (2006 and 2010), Eurocities (2005), the Italian Government, and the URBACT Regenera network.

Lessons learned: setting a flexible and adaptable framework

The establishment of the Consortium facilitated the successful implementation of the Plan. The achievements were mainly due to the strong connection between the members of the Consortium and social community groups representing the needs of the neighbourhood’s residents. The plan maintained a high degree of transparency; renewed policies and other changes incorporated into the plan were at all stages communicated to the residents. In addition, technical and personal support was provided to the residents, reflecting their demands for a participatory approach to the legal framework of the plan.  Thus, local stakeholders and citizens were heavily involved and were part of the project, and therefore the Consortium was a reliable indicator for decision-making. Furthermore, it should be noted that integrated urban development projects require flexibility and adaptability in all policy fields. The multifaceted nature of such projects needs a well-planned framework which allows it constantly to adapt to changes, especially taking into account the effects of the financial crisis on vulnerable groups.

 

 

This text relies on helpful comments of the Consorci del barri de la Mina.