Urban development in Europe brought into view

The SUPER project (Sustainable urbanization and land-use Practices in European Regions) analysed land-use changes in Europe since 2000 and provided insight on how to enhance the sustainability of urban development practices. Among other things, the study calculated that approximately 250 football pitches of land are converted to urban use each day in Europe. This is the result of well-known socioeconomic developments, but also policies. To explore this further, the SUPER projected collected and analysed over 200 interventions that impacted, or sought to impact, urban development in Europe. Eleven of these were studied in-depth as case studies. In addition, scenarios were drawn up that illustrate the shape, magnitude, and sustainability of three different urbanization trajectories (compact, polycentric, and diffuse).

The SUPER project, headed by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, was carried out within the European policy research programme ESPON. It produced various reports, all which are available at https://www.espon.eu/super

  • SUPER Guide to sustainable urbanization: this handbook presents the findings and lessons from the SUPER project in an accessible way for policymakers.
  • Synthesis Report: this contains a brief overview of the most important elements of the project and the main conclusions.
  • Main Report: this provides a complete picture of the analyses carried out in the SUPER project.
  • Annex 1: this presents the evidence on land-use developments in Europe since 2000 and the analyses on sustainability, urban typologies, and urban form.
  • Annex 2: this presents the analyses of the interventions collected in the project as well as the analysis of how European policies impact urbanization and land use.
  • Annex 3: this presents the methodology and synthetic analysis of the eleven case studies. Each case study is treated in a separate report.
  • Annex 4: this describes the three urbanization modes used as basis for the scenarios, the application of the LUISETTA land-allocation model and the sustainability assessment framework.

A major finding of the SUPER project is that policies, strategies and plans do have an impact on urban development, including those set at the EU level. However, the diversity of European regions is so great that no indisputable best practices could be identified: what works in one region may fail in another. Because of this, policies should be place-based and sensitive to the local context. The SUPER study also found that long term strategies were often useful for garnering political support and increasing the effectiveness of measures.


PBL Authors
David Evers Maarten van Schie Lia van den Broek Kersten Nabielek Jan Ritsema van Eck Frank van Rijn Ries van der Wouden


Publication title
SUPER final reports
Publication date
8 January 2021
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