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Sofia: New programme will reshape the city in the next 6 years

Sofia: New programme will reshape the city in the next 6 years

Here are the goals of the new 'Programme for Sofia' a document to tackle multiple interconnected issues in the city by fostering collaboration

On 25 November, the City Council of Sofia adopted the new integrated urban development plan called ‘Programme for Sofia’. The plan will run from 2021 to 2027 outlining the strategic investment priorities of the city. In other words, the city will focus exclusively on achieving the goals set out in the paper.

Some of the main points of the programme focus on measures to foster collaboration between key stakeholders like NGO’s and businesses with the government. It also takes a big-picture approach to issues and aims to find solutions with multiplication effects.

The structure of the plan

The plan was developed by ‘Sofiaplan’ a municipal agency tasked with creating Sofia’s new Urban Masterplan for the next 30 years. ‘Programme for Sofia’ is only the first exciting piece of the big-picture strategy that local authorities plan to implement.

Miglena Gerasimova, a Sociologist and Urbanist focusing on strategic planning with Sofiaplan told TheMayor.EU how the ‘Programme for Sofia’ works. First off, it lays out three main goals, each with its own priorities. It also outlines 14 specific goals (SG’s) the city will undertake in the coming years. The main idea behind this approach is 'integrated strategic development'.

Simply put, each of the 14 goals fulfils multiple municipal objectives so the city has many approaches when tackling an issue. It also offers stakeholders multiple options for financing these projects.

The three main objectives

The three main goals aim to pinpoint the particular shortcomings in the city and focus municipal efforts on tackling the multiple issues in these areas. The goals are: ‘Sustainable Development and Connectivity’, ‘Boosting the competitiveness of Sofia and developing a knowledge-based economy' and ‘Social and Cultural Development’.

The first one aims to attract investment in biodiversity and a transition to a low-carbon circular economy, geared towards renewable energy generation. It also wants to reduce waste and raw materials consumed by industry, while strengthening innovation. And this process should be underpinned by a better and more efficient urban mobility network and technological infrastructure - keys to boosting connections with other regions in the country.

The second objective is mainly focused on the local economy and prioritises entrepreneurial innovation, attracting investment in sectors with high added value, cooperation between the academic realm and businesses, lowering educational inequality and providing qualification programmes for people of all ages, including the elderly.

The third objective focuses on raising living standards by promoting a healthier lifestyle, in light of Bulgaria’s fairly new obesity problem and better access to quality healthcare. It also focuses on cultural heritage and boosting tourism.

Another important goal in this section concerns housing, and the creation of a comprehensive housing strategy for the city and the redirection of development efforts to the north and west districts to alleviate regional misbalance.

14 specific goals

Miglena Gerasimova explained what the specific goals help to achieve. According to her, they outline multi-sector policies, that cover a lot of the ground outlined by the main goals.

She gave an example with the Green Wedges. Green Wedges are a fairly old idea in Sofia’s urban plan. They represent parks that connect the centre of the city to the unfettered nature found outside of the city. The original idea also called that no cars or roads should be encountered when walking in one of the wedges.

Sofia is uniquely suited for this urban feature, due to its proximity to the natural park of Vitosha. The Green Wedges have never been completed and the City aims to fix that. Furthermore, they provide benefits to a healthier lifestyle, biodiversity, sustainability, reducing heat islands, air pollution, and social inequality through access to recreation and spaces for culture.

The 14 specific goals are:

  1. Cleaner, healthier and varied living environment with integrated green capital;
  2. Boosting the energy efficiency and local renewable energy production;
  3. Transition to a circular economy;
  4. An environment fostering innovation and a high-performance economy;
  5. Better and faster services by the local administration;
  6. An environment fostering science and education, encouraging continuous learning;
  7. Bettering the conditions for a healthier and more active lifestyle;
  8. Cultural heritage and environmentally fostering culture and the creative sector;
  9. Transition to a more sustainable and innovative tourist sector;
  10. Lowering social inequality;
  11. A more comfortable mixed-use urban environment;
  12. Better access to better quality housing;
  13. Sustainable mobility;
  14. Better quality technical infrastructure with a wider variety of services.

New municipal structures handling the implementation of the programme

Part of the main goals of the new programme is to focus the efforts of key government and non-government stakeholders, as well as of businesses and citizens, in achieving the goals for the next 6 years.

This is why Mayor Yordanka Fandakova announced two new municipal structures, that will manage the implementation of the Programme for Sofia. One will handle the project approval process and the verification process on whether the projects follow the programme’s guidelines. The other will handle the implementation.

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